A case-control study of lung cancer and diesel exhaust exposure in railroad workers

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1987 Jun;135(6):1242-8. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1987.135.6.1242.


A case-control study of deaths among U.S. railroad workers was conducted to test the hypothesis that lung cancer is associated with exposure to diesel exhaust. Employed and retired male workers with greater than or equal to 10 yr of service who were born on or after January 1, 1900 and who died between March 1, 1981 and February 28, 1982 were eligible. We collected 87% of the death certificates from 15,059 deaths reported to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Cases of lung cancer (1,256) were matched to controls by age (+/- 2.5 yr) and date of death (+/- 31 days). Potential exposure to diesel exhaust was assigned based on an industrial hygiene evaluation of jobs and work areas. Each subject's work history was determined from a yearly job report filed by his employer with the RRB from 1959 until death or retirement. Asbestos exposure prior to 1959 was categorized by the job held in 1959, the end of the steam locomotive era, or by the last job held if retirement occurred before 1959. Smoking histories were obtained by questionnaire from next of kin. Using multiple conditional logistic regression analysis to adjust for smoking and asbestos exposure, workers 64 yr of age or younger at the time of death with work in a diesel exhaust exposed job for 20 yr had a significantly increased relative odds (odds ratio = 1.41, 95% Cl = 1.06, 1.88) of lung cancer. No effect of diesel exhaust exposure was seen in workers 65 yr of age or older because many of these men retired shortly after the transition to diesel-powered locomotives.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Asbestos / adverse effects
  • Fuel Oils / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Petroleum / adverse effects*
  • Railroads*
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk
  • Smoking
  • United States


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Fuel Oils
  • Petroleum
  • Asbestos