Cancer incidence among workers in six Norwegian aluminum plants.

OBJECTIVES: This study investigated associations between exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and the incidence of lung, bladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer among Norwegian aluminum plant workers.

METHODS: Cancer incidence was investigated from 1953 to 1996 among 11,103 men employed for more than 3 years in the industry, giving 272,554 person-years during follow-up. A job exposure matrix was constructed to estimate exposure to particulate PAH and fluorides. The observed cases of cancer were compared with expected figures calculated from national rates. Dose-response relations were investigated by internal comparisons using Poisson regression and stratified analyses for standardized incidence ratio. Potential confounding by smoking was investigated in subanalyses restricted to 3 of the plants.

RESULTS: The study showed an overall excess for bladder cancer, standardized incidence ratio 1.3 (95% confidence interval 1.1-1.5), which increased with increasing cumulative exposure to PAH and reached a relative risk of about 2 for the upper exposure category in the analysis with 30 years of lag time. There was no association between cumulative PAH exposure and lung cancer, but there were indications of an elevated risk of kidney cancer among the most heavily PAH-exposed persons in the analyses with a lag time of 30 years. For pancreatic cancer we found a higher incidence among the PAH-exposed persons than among the unexposed ones, but no clear dose-response association was found.

CONCLUSIONS: The study showed an association between bladder cancer and exposure to PAH, but gave no support to an association between PAH exposure and lung cancer in the primary aluminum industry.