An epidemiological study of risk factors for lung cancer in Guangzhou, China

Lung Cancer. 1996 Mar;14 Suppl 1:S9-37. doi: 10.1016/s0169-5002(96)90208-1.


Lung cancer has been on a rapid rise worldwide during the last three or four decades, in part due to modern social habits and unhealthy lifestyles. Although smoking, air pollution, and certain types of occupational exposure have been recognized as the major risk factors for lung cancer, the significance of each of these factors appears to vary with sex, country, and with region within a given country. In the case of nonsmoking females, some risk factors for lung cancer remain to be identified. In the city of Guangzhou, lung cancer is one of the five leading tumors and the rate has been increasing steadily in both males and females since the 1970s. In this report, more than 6000 cases of lung cancer deaths, accumulated over the past 9 years, were analyzed. The severity of air pollution and cigarette smoking were positively correlated with the incidence of lung cancer deaths. Analysis of levels of SO2 and NOx suggests that the major source of indoor air pollution came from cooking. Two studies were performed in order to determine the relative contribution and importance of smoking, indoor air pollution and occupational exposure as risk factors for the rising incidence of lung cancer. The first was a population-based case-control study involving 849 subjects (566 males and 283 females). The second study was based on the data made available by the Third National Census survey, in which the standardized mortality rate (SMR) and population attributable risk (PAR) for lung cancer due to occupational exposure for the population in Guangzhou were analyzed. Results of these two studies show that: in females, indoor air pollution, derived primarily from burning coal, was found to be a highly significant risk factor for lung cancer. In males, however, cigarette smoking and occupational exposure were significantly associated with lung cancer. To further elucidate the contribution of indoor air pollution as a risk factor for lung cancer in nonsmoking females, two additional case-control studies were performed in 1985 and 1986. The 1985 study involved 120 nonsmokers (28 males, 92 females) in which the influence of such lifestyle factors as: personal history of nonmalignant respiratory diseases, fresh vegetable consumption, lifetime occupation and occupational exposure histories, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), degree of indoor air pollution, general conditions of home residence, cooking practices and environments, and family history of cancer were first individually assessed and then collectively subjected to multiple conditional regression analysis for evaluation as risk factors for lung cancer. The 1986 study involved 75 cases of never-smoking females in which the aim was to investigate the influence of exposure to spousal smoke as a risk factor for lung cancer. These studies suggest that consumption of fresh vegetables was a "protective" factor for lung cancer in both males and females. In females, indoor air pollution and size of the kitchen were risk factors for lung cancer, whereas ETS exposure, respiratory disease history, family history of cancer, living conditions, use of cooking fuel, and participation in cooking, were not statistically associated with female lung cancer deaths. Occupational exposure was also correlated with the incidence of female lung cancer deaths. In males, chemists had the highest SMR, whereas in females, homemakers had the highest SMR. In males, the most common lung cancer cell type was squamous cell carcinoma, whereas in females adenocarcinoma was the most predominant type. The factors affecting the distribution of histologic lung cancer cell types were also investigated and discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • China / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution