Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cancer in man

Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Nov;104(11):1166-70. doi: 10.1289/ehp.961041166.


Various substances and industrial processes, surrogates of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are currently classified as human carcinogens. This paper reviews recent epidemiological studies reporting direct evidence of the carcinogenic effects of PAHs in occupationally exposed subjects. Risks of lung and bladder cancer were dose dependent when PAHs were measured quantitatively and truly nonexposed groups were chosen for comparison. These new findings suggest that the current threshold limit value of 0.2 mg/m3 of benzene soluble matter (which indicates PAH exposure) is unacceptable because, after 40 years of exposure, it involves a relative risk of 1.2-1.4 for lung cancer and 2.2 for bladder cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / epidemiology


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Carcinogens
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons