Chromium and disease: Review of epidemiologic studies with particular reference to etiologic information provided by measures of exposure

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27 Scopus citations


Dozens of epidemiologic studies have been conducted since the late 1940s in an attempt to elucidate the relationship between exposure to chromium compounds and increased rates of certain cancers observed in several industries. The relationship between employment in industries producing chromium compounds from chromite ore and lung cancer has been well established in numerous studies. The relationship between exposure to certain chromium-based pigments and chromic acid and lung cancer, although not as strong, is fairly well accepted. The data concerning emissions from stainless-steel manufacturing and disease are contradictory. Although individual studies have indicated excesses of gastrointestinal and occasionally other cancers in these industries, results are not consistent and not universally accepted. There is general agreement that chromite ore does not have an associated risk of cancer. Although the chromium compound (or compounds) responsible for disease have yet to be identified, there is general agreement that hexavalent species are responsible for these diseases and that the trivalent species are not. Hypotheses about the carcinogenicity of specific chromium compounds generally relate to their solubility in body fluids. These hypotheses, however, have generally been produced as a result of toxicologic, not epidemiologic, investigation. Well-designed epidemiologic studies incorporating detailed assessments of worker exposures have the potential to help elucidate causality, identify specific carcinogenic compounds, and quantify risk in humans, eliminating the need to extrapolate from animal data. Although the need for exposure data crucial to this effort was identified in the earliest epidemiologic studies of chromium, such studies have not been conducted. As a result, little more is known today about the relationship between this chemical and disease in humans than was known 40 years ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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