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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - Summaries & Evaluations

EXPOSURES IN THE TEXTILE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY
(Group 2B)

For definition of Groups, see Preamble Evaluation.

Vol.: 48 (1990) (p. 215)

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Exposure data

The textile manufacturing industry employs over ten million workers throughout the world. The industry includes the spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing and finishing of numerous types of natural and synthetic fibres. The products include fabrics, yarns and carpets.

Textile workers are exposed to textile-related dusts throughout the manufacturing process. During spinning, weaving and knitting operations, exposure to chemicals is generally limited.

In dyeing and printing operations, workers are frequently exposed to dyes (including those based on benzidine as well as a variety of acids and bases), optical brighteners, organic solvents and fixatives. Workers in finishing operations are frequently exposed to crease-resistance agents (many of which release formaldehyde), flame retardants (including organophosphorus and organobromine compounds) and antimicrobial agents. In the dyeing, printing and finishing processes, workers typically have multiple exposures, which can vary with time and process.

5.2 Experimental carcinogenicity data

No data were available to the Working Group.

5.3 Human carcinogenicity data

Oral and pharyngeal cancers

Five studies of mortality and morbidity statistics did not indicate an increased risk for cancers at these sites. In the USA, a hospital-based case-control study showed an association between cancer of the buccal cavity and pharynx and textile work for both men and women working in textile mills. Of four case-control studies conducted in the UK, one had no case of oral cancer in textile workers, another showed an elevated risk for oral and pharyngeal cancers particularly among male fibre preparers, the third demonstrated an increased risk among female textile workers employed in spinning and weaving, and the fourth showed a small increase in risk in textile workers. A case- control study in the USA showed no increase, but a further study suggested a slightly increased risk for women potentially exposed to dust in the textile industry.

Cancers of the oesophagus and stomach

Ten studies based on mortality or incidence statistics in four countries were available to the Working Group. Seven of them showed an increased risk for stomach cancer among textile workers, and another showed an increase only among women in textile manufacturing. Oesophageal cancer risk was found to be elevated in three of these studies, and, in one of these, the increase was significant among a group of workers engaged as operatives in dyeing and finishing. In none of these studies was socioeconomic status taken into consideration. Two cohort studies, one in the USA and one in the UK, found moderate increases in mortality from cancer of the 'digestive system', without further specification. A case-control study in the USA showed an increased risk for stomach and oesophageal cancer. A Canadian case-control study did not show an increased risk for stomach cancer associated with exposure to cotton, wool or synthetic fibre dusts. Two case-control studies were conducted in the UK; one showed an increased risk for cancer of the stomach but not of the oesophagus, and the other showed an increase for oesophageal cancer.

Colorectal cancer

Of six large studies based on routinely collected cancer incidence or mortality data, two showed an elevated risk for colorectal cancer among textile workers; one showed an elevated risk for rectal cancer and a decreased risk for cancer of the colon. The incidence of cancers of the large bowel was reported to be increased in sequential case-control studies on workers in the synthetic fibres unit of a carpet factory in Canada. In another case-control study in Canada, the incidence of colorectal cancer was found to be significantly associated with exposure to synthetic fibre dust; the study took possible confounders into consideration. In two case-control studies, one in the UK and one in the USA, increased risks for cancers of the colon and rectum were observed, respectively, but there were few cases. A further case-control study in the USA showed an increased risk for colorectal cancer in men and a decreased risk in women; however, a large case-control study in the USA showed no evidence of an association between cancer of the colon and work in the textile industry.

Nasal cancer

Five studies based on mortality and morbidity statistics consistently showed increased risks for nasal cancer in textile workers, one in women only. In the USA, a hospital-based case-control study showed a significantly elevated risk in men employed as operatives in textile mills. In another study in the USA, an increased risk was noted among female textile and garment workers, predominantly in those first employed fewer than 20 years before diagnosis; an elevated risk for adenocarcinoma of the nasal cavity was noted among men and women in dusty operations. A significantly elevated risk related to duration of employment was found for textile workers in Hong Kong, particularly among weavers. Another study in the USA did not show an increased risk among men employed in formaldehyde-associated textile work.

Laryngeal cancer

Three mortality studies and one study of national mortality statistics in the UK revealed no association between textile work and laryngeal cancer. One US and one UK mortality study suggested a borderline positive association between textile work and laryngeal cancer; one Danish record-linkage study suggested a positive association only for women. Four case-control studies reported positive associations; and two further case-control studies showed positive associations between textile processing and exposures to textile dust and laryngeal cancer when controlling for alcohol and tobacco use.

Lung cancer

Four studies based on national mortality statistics in the UK found decreased risks for lung cancer among male textile workers; one of the studies showed a decreased risk among women and one showed an increased risk. Of seven further studies based on routinely collected cancer mortality or incidence statistics, five showed a decreased risk for lung cancer in textile workers and one an increased risk. Two cohort studies in the USA revealed a decreased risk for lung cancer among textile workers; in one, the decreased risk was associated with increased presumed exposure to cotton dust. One cohort study in the UK showed no increased risk. Of four case-control studies in the USA, two showed relative risks greater than 2.0, one showed a smaller increase in risk and one showed a decreased risk for lung cancer in textile workers. A case-control study in Canada showed a moderately decreased risk for lung cancer in textile workers, particularly among those working with wool or synthetic fibres. Two case-control studies in Italy showed an elevated risk for lung cancer in textile workers. A case-control study in China also showed a decreased risk for lung cancer in cotton textile workers.

Bladder cancer

Of three studies based on national mortality statistics in the UK, two showed an increased risk for bladder cancer among textile workers. Of six other studies based on routinely collected mortality or incidence statistics, two reported increased risks among textile workers and one showed an increased risk only for women. Two cohort studies, one in the USA and one in the UK, showed moderately increased risks.

Of a total of 19 case-control studies in which bladder cancer in textile workers was investigated, 14 showed elevated risks. These include five studies in which the risk for dyers was examined (two in the UK, one in Canada and two in Spain), all of which reported elevated risks. In the Canadian study, there was a nearly five-fold increase in risk in workers who had been employed for at least six months during the period eight to 28 years before diagnosis, and there was a trend with duration of exposure.

Four studies also addressed risks in weavers (the two Spanish studies, a study in the UK and a study in Italy), and all reported an elevation of risk of approximately two fold or more.

The findings of the 13 case-control studies that did not specifically address risks in dyers or weavers (five in the USA, one each in the UK, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and Spain, and a collaborative study in the USA, UK and Japan) are less consistent: eight reported elevated risks and five reported decreased risks among textile workers.

Data on smoking habits were not available in most of the studies on textile workers. When they were available, adjustment for cigarette smoking made little difference to the findings.

Haematopoietic malignancies

One mortality study of white female textile workers in the USA showed a positive association between work in manufacturing textile mill products and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Two further US mortality studies of textile and of textile and carpet manufacturers reported no increase in risk. A Danish record-linkage morbidity study gave no evidence of an increased risk for this cancer among men or women in textile manufacturing. A case-control study in the UK showed a moderately increased risk, on the basis of a few cases, and a case- control study in the USA showed no significant association between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and employment in the textile industry. A Canadian case-control study showed a positive association between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and 'substantial' exposure to cotton dust, which became stronger when analysis was limited to textile processing workers exposed to cotton dust.

A Danish record-linkage morbidity study based on a small number of cases reported a borderline positive association for Hodgkin's disease among men engaged in spinning, weaving and finishing. Two US mortality studies and two UK case-control studies found a nonsignificant association between textile work and Hodgkin's disease. One mortality study reported a significant positive association between leukaemia and textile work.

Other cancers

Two mortality studies reported a borderline positive association between thyroid cancer and work in the textile industry.

One mortality study reported an elevated but nonsignificant association between cancer of the liver and working with textiles. A similar association was reported for cancer of the gall-bladder in another mortality study.

In one record-linkage morbidity study and in one case-control study, the risk for cancer of the pancreas was elevated in men working in the textile industry; in a further case-control study, the risk was increased, but not significantly so.

A mortality study and a record-linkage morbidity study reported a significant association between cervical cancer and textile work, while examination of mortality statistics gave little evidence of such an association. These studies were not controlled for social class.

A single mortality study found an increase in the number of deaths from testicular cancer among carpet and textile workers.

One case-control study showed a borderline increase in risk for prostatic cancer among black but not white textile workers; for white workers, increased risk was seen in two subcategories of the industry. One further case-control study showed no significant association between prostatic cancer and work in the textile industry; another showed a nonsignificantly elevated risk.

A single record-linkage morbidity study reported an increased risk of borderline significance for melanoma among male, but not female, textile workers.

One mortality study in the USA showed a significantly increased risk for cancer of connective tissue among white female textile workers. A study based on national statistics in the UK showed no increase in risk for cancer at this site.

One case-control study showed no association between cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter and work in the textile industry; another case control study showed no association between cancer of the kidney and work in the textile industry.

A single cancer registry study showed a significant association between the incidence of intracranial gliomas in women and employment in the wool industry.

One Dutch case-control study of lymphocytic leukaemia showed a risk of borderline significance among children whose mothers had been employed in the textile industry during pregnancy.

5.4 Other relevant data

A study of spontaneous abortions in Finland showed a moderately increased risk among mothers employed as spinners, fabric inspectors and weavers. A study in Canada gave no evidence of an increased risk of prematurity or low birth weight in babies of women employed in the textile industry. An analysis of birth records in the USA found an increased risk for fetal death among offspring of women employed in the textile industry.

5.5 Evaluation

There is limited evidence that working in the textile manufacturing industry entails a carcinogenic risk.

This evaluation is based mainly on findings of bladder cancer among dyers (possibly due to exposure to dyes) and among weavers (possibly due to exposure to dusts from fibres and yarns) and of cancer of the nasal cavity among weavers (possibly due to exposure to dusts from fibres and yarns) and among other textile workers.

Working in the textile manufacturing industry entails exposures that are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).

For definition of the italicized terms, see Preamble Evaluation.

This evaluation applies to exposures in the textile manufacturing industry that exclude the manufacture of asbestos textiles (IARC, 1977, 1987) and mule spinning with exposure to mineral oils (IARC, 1984, 1987).


Last updated 01/20/98





















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