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Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Sep;118(9):1257-60. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901587. Epub 2010 May 14.

Lung cancer in Chinese women: evidence for an interaction between tobacco smoking and exposure to inhalants in the indoor environment.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore.



Epidemiologic data suggest that Chinese women have a high incidence of lung cancer in relation to their smoking prevalence. In addition to active tobacco smoke exposure, other sources of fumes and airborne particles in the indoor environment, such as cooking and burning of incense and mosquito coils, have been considered potential risk factors for lung cancer.


We used a case-control study to explore effects of inhalants from combustion sources common in the domestic environment on lung cancer and their modification by active tobacco smoking.


We analyzed 703 primary lung cancer cases and 1,578 controls. Data on demographic background and relevant exposures were obtained by face-to-face interviews in the hospital.


We observed a positive relationship with daily exposure to incense or mosquito coils and to cooking fumes only among smokers, and no association among lifetime nonsmokers. Interactions between smoking and frequency of cooking, or exposure to incense or mosquito coils were statistically significant and consistent with synergistic effects on lung cancer. The odds ratio (OR) comparing smokers without daily incense or mosquito coil exposure with nonsmokers without daily exposure was 2.80 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.86-4.21], whereas the OR comparing smokers with daily exposure to the same referent group was 4.61 (95% CI, 3.41-6.24). In contrast, daily exposure to incense or mosquito coils was not associated with lung cancer among nonsmokers (OR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.72-1.16). We observed the same pattern of associations for smokers without (OR = 2.31; 95% CI, 1.52-3.51) and with (OR = 4.50; 95% CI, 3.21-6.30) daily cooking exposure compared with nonsmokers, with no evidence of an association with daily cooking exposure among nonsmokers.


Our results suggest that active tobacco smoking not only is an important risk factor for development of lung cancer, but also may cause smokers to be more susceptible to the risk-enhancing effects of other inhalants.

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