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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2237-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
AL conducted literature review, statistical analysis, and prepared the first draft for all sections of this manuscript with the help and supervision of JP. JL managed the exposure assessment data. LR participated in the study design and coordinated the data collection methods. JS designed both Studies (I and II) included in this manuscript, developed the methods for assessment of occupational exposures, and supervised its implementation and supervised all aspects of this manuscript. All co-authors participated in the editing and correction of the final text. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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Given the large number of workers in the construction industry, it is important to derive accurate and valid estimates of cancer risk, and in particular lung cancer risk. In most previous studies, risks among construction workers were compared with general populations including blue and white collar workers. The main objectives of this study were to assess whether construction workers experience excess lung cancer risk, and whether exposure to selected construction industry exposures carries excess risks. We wished to address these objectives within the sub-population of blue collar workers.
Two case-control studies were conducted in Montreal. Combined, they included 1593 lung cancer cases and 1427 controls, of whom 1304 cases and 1081 controls had been blue collar workers. Detailed lifetime job histories were obtained and translated by experts into histories of exposure to chemical agents. The two key analyses were to estimate odds ratio (OR) estimates of lung cancer risk: a) for all blue-collar construction workers compared with other blue-collar workers, and b) for construction workers exposed to each of 20 exposure agents found in the construction industry compared with construction workers unexposed to those agents. All analyses were conducted using unconditional logistic regression adjusted for socio-demographic factors and smoking history.
The OR for all construction workers combined was 1.11 (95 % CI: 0.90–1.38), based on 381 blue collar construction workers. Analyses of specific exposures were hampered by small numbers and imprecise estimates. While none of 20 occupational agents examined was significantly associated with lung cancer, the following agents manifested non-significantly elevated ORs: asbestos, silica, Portland cement, soil dust, calcium oxide and calcium sulfate.
Compared with other blue collar workers, there was only a slight increased risk of lung cancer for subjects who ever held an occupation in the construction industry. The analyses of agents within the construction industry produced imprecise estimates of risk, but nevertheless pointed to some plausible associations. Excess risks for asbestos and silica were in line with previous knowledge. The possible excess risks with the other inorganic dusts require further corroboration.