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Int J Cancer. 2001 Dec 15;94(6):878-83.

Primary liver cancer and occupation in men: a case-control study in a high-incidence area in Northern Italy.

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Institute of Occupational Health, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.


The objective of our study was to evaluate the association between occupation and risk of liver cancer. A hospital-based case-control study was carried out during 1997-1999 in the Province of Brescia, a highly industrialized area in Northern Italy with a high incidence of this neoplasm. The cases were 144 male patients with incident liver cancer (96% hepatocellular carcinoma). Controls were 283 male patients, matched to cases on age (+/-5 years), period and hospital of admission. Information on lifetime occupational history and alcohol consumption was obtained via interview. Specific occupational exposures to pesticides, solvents and other suspected hepatocarcinogens were evaluated. A blood sample was collected to detect hepatitis B and C infections. Odds ratios (OR) of occupational exposure and 95% confidence intervals (CI), adjusted for age, residence, education, heavy alcohol intake, hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis C virus antibodies positivity were computed. A statistically significant increased OR was observed for employment in repair of motor vehicles (OR 3.7; 95% CI 1.1-12.3; 9 exposed cases, 10 exposed controls). Increased ORs, although not statistically significant, were found for field-crop farm workers, food and beverage processors, blacksmiths and machine-tool operators, electrical fitters, clerical workers, manufacture of industrial machinery and personal and household services. A slightly increased OR was noted in workers exposed to toluene and xylene (OR 1.4; 95% CI 0.7-3.0, 23 cases, 36 controls); the OR was 2.8 (95% CI 1.0-7.6, 11 cases, 12 controls) for 20 or more years of exposure and 2.0 (95% CI 0.9-4.1, 21 cases, 28 controls) for 30 or more years of time since first exposure. The increase in OR seemed to be independent from that of alcohol or viral infections. Our study showed that the role of occupational exposures in liver carcinogenesis is limited. However, prolonged exposure to organic solvents such as toluene and xylene may represent a risk factor for liver cancer.

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