Background: Brain tumor etiology is poorly understood. Based on their ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier, it has been hypothesized that exposure to metals may increase the risk of brain cancer. Results from the few epidemiological studies on this issue are limited and inconsistent.
Methods: We investigated the relationship between glioma risk and occupational exposure to five metals - lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium and iron- as well as to welding fumes, using data from the seven-country INTEROCC study. A total of 1800 incident glioma cases and 5160 controls aged 30-69 years were included in the analysis. Lifetime occupational exposure to the agents was assessed using the INTEROCC JEM, a modified version of the Finnish job exposure matrix FINJEM.
Results: In general, cases had a slightly higher prevalence of exposure to the various metals and welding fumes than did controls, with the prevalence among ever exposed ranging between 1.7 and 2.2% for cadmium to 10.2 and 13.6% for iron among controls and cases, respectively. However, in multivariable logistic regression analyses, there was no association between ever exposure to any of the agents and risk of glioma with odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) ranging from 0.8 (0.7-1.0) for lead to 1.1 (0.7-1.6) for cadmium. Results were consistent across models considering cumulative exposure or duration, as well as in all sensitivity analyses conducted.
Conclusions: Findings from this large-scale international study provide no evidence for an association between occupational exposure to any of the metals under scrutiny or welding fumes, and risk of glioma.
Keywords: Glioma; Metals; Occupational exposures; Welding fumes.