Radiographic abnormalities and the risk of lung cancer among workers exposed to silica dust in Ontario.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine whether workers in Ontario who had been exposed to silica dust and who have radiographic abnormalities are at increased risk of lung cancer. DESIGN: Cohort and case-control studies of rates of death from lung cancer and cancer incidence rates; data were obtained from the Ontario Silicosis Surveillance Registry. Follow-up was through linkage to the Ontario mortality and cancer registries. SETTING: Ontario. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 523 workers with radiographic abnormalities and 1568 control subjects with normal radiographic findings who had been exposed to silica dust. Matching criteria were year of birth and the requirement that the control subject have a normal radiographic finding either later than or in the same year that the radiographic abnormality was identified in the silicosis subject. OUTCOME MEASURES: Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs), standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) and odds ratios for lung cancer. RESULTS: In the cohort analysis, with the Ontario population rates as reference, the all-cause SMR was 0.96 among the workers with radiographic abnormalities and 0.51 among the control subjects. The corresponding SIRs for lung cancer were 2.49 and 0.87 (p < 0.001). In the case-control analysis the workers with silicosis were more likely than the control subjects to have been smokers, but this difference likely accounted for only a small part of the difference in the incidence of lung cancer. The relative risk of lung cancer was elevated among the workers with silicosis from the foundry, mining and nonmetallic-minerals industries; however, the number of subjects was too small for a significant difference to be detected. Among the miners exposure to radon daughters did not affect the risk of lung cancer attributable to radiographic abnormalities. CONCLUSIONS: Radiographic abnormalities suggestive of exposure to silica dust are markers for increased risk of lung cancer. Physicians might thus wish to warn their patients with silica-associated radiographic abnormalities about the increased risk and to counsel those who smoke to stop.
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