A case-control study of lung cancer and diesel exhaust exposure in railroad workers

E. Garshick, M. B. Schenker, A. Munoz, M. Segal, T. J. Smith, S. R. Woskie, S. K. Hammond, F. E. Speizer

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A case-control study of deaths among U.S. railroad workers was conducted to test the hypothesis that lung cancer is associated with exposure to diesel exhaust. Employed and retired male workers with ≥ 10 yr of service who were born on or after January 1, 1900 and who died between March 1, 1981 and February 28, 1982 were eligible. We collected 87% of the death certificates from 15,059 deaths reported to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Cases of lung cancer (1,256) were matched to controls by age (± 2.5 yr) and date of death (± 31 days). Potential exposure to diesel exhaust was assigned based on an industrial hygiene evaluation of jobs and work areas. Each subject's work history was determined from a yearly job report filed by his employer with the RRB from 1959 until death or retirement. Asbestos exposure prior to 1959 was categorized by the job held in 1959, the end of the steam locomotive era, or by the last job held if retirement occurred before 1959. Smoking histories were obtained by questionnaire from next of kin. Using multiple conditional logistic regression analysis to adjust for smoking and asbestos exposure, workers 64 yr of age or younger at the time of death with work in a diesel exhaust exposed job for 20 yr had a significantly increased relative odds (odds ratio = 1.41, 95% CI = 1.06, 1.88) of lung cancer. No effect of diesel exhaust exposure was seen in workers 65 yr of age or older because many of these men retired shortly after the transition to diesel-powered locomotives. This study supports the hypothesis that occupational exposure to diesel exhaust increases lung cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1242-1248
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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