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Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Sep;120(9):1301-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1204989. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Lung cancer and elemental carbon exposure in trucking industry workers.

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  • 1Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section, VA Boston Healthcare System, 1400 VFW Parkway, West Roxbury, MA 02132, USA.



Diesel exhaust has been considered to be a probable lung carcinogen based on studies of occupationally exposed workers. Efforts to define lung cancer risk in these studies have been limited in part by lack of quantitative exposure estimates.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study to assess lung cancer mortality risk among U.S. trucking industry workers. Elemental carbon (EC) was used as a surrogate of exposure to engine exhaust from diesel vehicles, traffic, and loading dock operations.


Work records were available for 31,135 male workers employed in the unionized U.S. trucking industry in 1985. A statistical model based on a national exposure assessment was used to estimate historical work-related exposures to EC. Lung cancer mortality was ascertained through the year 2000, and associations with cumulative and average EC were estimated using proportional hazards models.


Duration of employment was inversely associated with lung cancer risk consistent with a healthy worker survivor effect and a cohort composed of prevalent hires. After adjusting for employment duration, we noted a suggestion of a linear exposure-response relationship. For each 1,000-µg/m³ months of cumulative EC, based on a 5-year exposure lag, the hazard ratio (HR) was 1.07 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.99, 1.15] with a similar association for a 10-year exposure lag [HR = 1.09 (95% CI: 0.99, 1.20)]. Average exposure was not associated with relative risk.


Lung cancer mortality in trucking industry workers increased in association with cumulative exposure to EC after adjusting for negative confounding by employment duration.

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