A 10-year incidence survey of respiratory cancer and a case-control study within a cohort of nickel mining and refining workers in New Caledonia

Cancer Causes Control. 1994 Jan;5(1):15-25. doi: 10.1007/BF01830722.


The incidence of lung, pleural, nasal, larynx, and pharynx cancer in relation to work in the nickel mining and refining industry was studied from 1978 to 1987 in the male population of the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. The results showed no greater risk in the population of nickel workers than in the general male population. The incidence of respiratory cancer in New Caledonia was found to be comparable to that of industrialized countries, except for pleural cancer for which there was an excess risk in New Caledonia. A case-control study within the cohort of nickel industry workers comprised 80 lung cancer, 12 larynx cancer, 20 pharynx cancer cases, and 298 controls, and took account of 18 substances to which workers were exposed, five of them nickel compounds. None of the substances, or any other occupational variable, was shown to increase the risk of respiratory cancer, except for cancer of the larynx in relation to level and duration of exposure to dust and engine exhaust fumes on mining sites (odds ratios ranged from five to 5.4 and were significant). These results provide no evidence that exposures specific to the nickel industry in New Caledonia increase the risk of respiratory cancer. This might be due to the involvement of less airborne nickel than the amount observed in positive studies elsewhere. The high incidence of respiratory cancer in New Caledonia, compared with other South Pacific islands, might be attributable to an environmental risk connected with the presence of mineral fibers in the geologic strata, as well as to tobacco and alcohol consumption levels similar to those prevailing in France.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • New Caledonia / epidemiology
  • Nickel / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Odds Ratio
  • Paranasal Sinus Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pleural Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / epidemiology


  • Nickel