Background: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified diesel exhaust as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) and gasoline exhaust as a possible carcinogen (Group 2B) based studies of lung cancer, however the evidence for other sites is limited. We addressed this question by investigating exposure to diesel and gasoline emissions with respect to risk of colorectal cancer in men.
Methods: We used data from a population-based case-control study with incident cases of colon (n = 931) and rectal (n = 840) cancer and 1360 controls from 7 Canadian provinces conducted in 1994-1997. Lifetime occupational history and information on other risk factors was collected. Occupational hygienists, blinded to case-control status, assigned exposures to each job for 3 dimensions: concentration, frequency, and reliability. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and their 95 % confidence intervals (CI), adjusted for age, province, use of proxy respondents, smoking, body-mass index, physical activity, intake of alcohol, processed meats, and occupational exposure to asbestos and aromatic amines.
Results: Among CRC cases, 638 (36 %) were exposed to diesel and 814 (46 %) were exposed to gasoline emissions. Relative to the unexposed, elevated risks were observed among subjects ever exposed to high concentration levels of diesel emissions for colorectal cancer (OR = 1.65, 95 % CI = 0.98-2.80) and rectal cancer (OR = 1.98, 95 % CI = 1.09-3.60), but not colon cancer. Prolonged (>10 years) exposure at high concentrations was also associated with high risks of rectal cancer (OR = 2.33 95 % CI = 0.94-5.78; p-trend = 0.02). No statistically significant associations were observed for gasoline emissions.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that sustained high-level exposure diesel emissions may increase the risk of rectal cancer.