Relation of arsenic exposure to lung cancer among tin miners in Yunnan Province, China

Br J Ind Med. 1989 Dec;46(12):881-6. doi: 10.1136/oem.46.12.881.


The relation of mining and smelting exposure to arsenic and lung cancer was studied among tin miners in Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China. Interviews were conducted in 1985 with 107 living tin miners who had lung cancer and an equal number of age matched controls from among tin miners without lung cancer to obtain information on risk factors for lung cancer including detailed history of employment and tobacco use. Occupational history was combined with industrial hygiene data to estimate cumulative arsenic exposure. Similar methods were also used to estimate radon exposure for simultaneous evaluation in this analysis. The results indicate that subjects in the highest quarter of cumulative arsenic exposure have a relative risk of 22.6 compared with subjects without exposure after adjusting for tobacco and radon exposure, and a positive dose response relation was observed. Simultaneous evaluation of arsenic and tobacco exposure indicates a greater risk for arsenic, whereas simultaneous assessment of arsenic and radon exposure suggests radon to be the greater risk. There is no evidence of synergism between arsenic and tobacco exposure. Among arsenic exposed individuals, cases of lung cancer have longer duration but lower average intensity of arsenic exposure than controls, indicating that duration of exposure to arsenic may be more important than intensity in the aetiology of lung cancer. Finally, risk of lung cancer among workers exposed to arsenic only in mining is only slightly less than for miners whose exposure to arsenic was limited to smelting, although risks are highest when workers were exposed to both mining and smelting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arsenic / adverse effects*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Metallurgy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Tin*


  • Tin
  • Arsenic