Cancer Risks of Hexavalent Chromium in the Respiratory Tract

J UOEH. 2018;40(2):157-172. doi: 10.7888/juoeh.40.157.


Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) compounds are recognized as carcinogens in the respiratory tract, giving rise to cancers of the lung, nose and nasal sinuses, especially in certain occupational environments. Inhalation exposure of Cr(VI)-containing particles, dusts and fumes commonly occurs in chromium-related occupational environments, such as chromium production, plating, welding of chromium-containing metals and alloys, electroplating, chromium-containing pigments and paints. Epidemiological surveys of chromium compounds have shown strong associations between exposure to Cr(VI) and mortality due to lung cancer, as well as positive associations with cancers of the nose and nasal cavity. Nasal symptoms, such as nasal irritation, ulceration and perforation of the nasal septum, nasal turbinate engorgement and hypertrophy, are important signs for the early diagnosis of lung cancer and cancers of the nose and nasal cavity in those with an occupational history of Cr(VI) exposure. Cr(VI) exposure in the workplace remains a serious problem as a cause of lung cancer and cancers of nose and nasal cavity, especially in relatively small enterprises that use chromium compounds. Appropriate protection for workers should be considered in occupations that involve exposure to chromium compounds.

Keywords: cancer; hexavalent chromium; inhalation exposure; respiratory tract.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromium / chemistry
  • Chromium / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nose Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / chemically induced


  • Chromium
  • chromium hexavalent ion