Possibility of lung cancer risk in indium-exposed workers: An 11-year multicenter cohort study

J Occup Health. 2019 May;61(3):251-256. doi: 10.1002/1348-9585.12050. Epub 2019 Mar 20.


Background: We established a causal relationship between indium exposure and lung interstitial and emphysematous effects. Lung cancer has been clearly demonstrated in rats and mice exposed to indium phosphide and in rats exposed to indium tin oxide. However, no information is available on human indium-related lung cancer.

Methods: The baseline studies were conducted on 381 indium-exposed and 150 referent workers in 11 factories from 2003 to 2006. Items examined included indium concentration in serum (In-S), occupational history, Krebs von den Lungen-6 (KL-6), chest high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), medical history, smoking habits, and subjective symptoms. Subjects received follow-up health checkups, and a total of 220 indium-exposed and 26 nonexposed workers were examined at least once with chest HRCT from 2013 to 2018.

Results: Four lung cancer cases were identified only in indium-exposed workers. Two were prevalent cases and two were incident cases. The averages (range) of age (years), exposure duration (years), In-S (μg/L), and KL-6 (U/mL) at the baseline survey were 58 (50-74), 1.7 (0.3-4.8), 3.1 (0.3-9.7), and 663 (414-942). The mean (range) latency from initial indium exposure was 5.3 (0.4-11) years. The HRCT findings in two incident cases were mild interstitial/emphysematous change and mild interstitial change. The standardized incidence ratio (SIR) of the incident cases was 1.89 (95%CI 0.52-6.88).

Conclusions: Although the SIR was not statistically significant, there was an undeniable possibility of indium-related lung cancer due to the short follow-up duration being insufficient to disclose lung cancer and the small number of lung cancer cases. Further follow-up is necessary.

Keywords: ITO; cohort study; human; indium; lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emphysema / blood
  • Emphysema / chemically induced
  • Emphysema / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Indium / blood*
  • Indium / toxicity
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / blood
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / chemically induced
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / blood
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / blood
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Indium