An epidemiological and toxicological evaluation of the carcinogenicity of man-made vitreous fiber, with a consideration of coexposures

J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 1994;13(3):169-80.


Exposure to man-made mineral (or vitreous) fiber (MMMF or MMVF) is a potential health concern in both occupational and environmental settings. Previous epidemiologic studies have reported a small increase of lung cancer among workers exposed to MMVF. Most of these studies were cohort studies and lacked information on fiber concentration, occupational coexposures, and cigarette smoking. Some of the coexposures were known human lung carcinogens and could have accounted for the small lung cancer excess. In a recently completed epidemiologic case-control study of lung cancer in MMVF workers exposed to slag wool fibers, we analyzed lung cancer risk in relation to cumulative fiber exposure (concentration and duration) and smoking history and controlled for other coexposures such as asbestos contamination. No increased lung cancer risk with exposure to slag wool fibers was found. As expected, however, we detected a strong confounding effect of smoking. The findings from this epidemiologic study were consistent with the results of recently completed toxicologic studies, which found that slag wool fibers of dimension classically associated with tumor induction ("Stanton" fibers) do not stay in the lung in sufficient quantity or time to induce tumors in animals. In this paper we emphasize the importance of confounding effects due to coexposures and provide guidelines to estimate the magnitude of potential confounding effects of coexposures such as smoking.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenicity Tests
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Ceramics / toxicity*
  • Cocarcinogenesis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minerals / toxicity*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Silicates / toxicity*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*


  • Carcinogens
  • Minerals
  • Silicates