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


VOL.: 25 (1981) (p. 99)

5. Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation

5.1 Summary of data

A number of studies are available on the relationship between nasal cancer, in particular nasal adenocarcinoma, and occupational exposure in the furniture and cabinet-making industry. An initial clinical report, pointing out the high frequency of furniture workers among nasal adenocarcinoma cases from High Wycombe (near Oxford), in England, has been followed by three epidemiological studies from the same country. In the first, an approximately twenty-fold increase in the incidence of nasal cancer has been observed in the southern part of the Oxford Hospital region, with three-quarters of the cases being represented by adenocarcinomas. In the second study, based on complete ascertainment of all cases of nasal cancer that occurred in a defined area around Oxford during a decade, a ten-fold excess risk of nasal cancer was observed for furniture workers, with 90% of the cases being adenocarcinomas (against about 10% among other occupations). The third study comprises all cases of nasal cancer registered in the whole of England and Wales (excluding the Oxford region) during a defined period, and shows an increased incidence of nasal adenocarcinoma (relative risk, about 100) among furniture workers. A smaller but still significant increase in relative risk was also found for nasal cancers other than adenocarcinomas.

Studies in other countries also show excesses of nasal cancers in furniture workers.

Less information is available with respect to other cancer risks. A death certificate survey in England and Wales showed a 30% increased incidence of lung cancer among cabinet-makers; this survey showed a decrease of a similar size for patternmakers. A SMR of 84 was seen in US mortality statistics for furniture-fixture occupations. A case-control study (involving interviews with next-of-kin of dead people) from Sweden reported a six-fold increased risk of lung cancer for furniture makers (based on four cases with the relevant exposure). The same study found a small, non-significantly increased risk for gastrointestinal cancers.

Of three studies (two from the US, one from England), which have examined the association between Hodgkin's disease and occupation in the furniture industry, none has shown an association.

There is evidence of a link between the occurrence of nasal cancers in furniture workers and the introduction of mechanized operations that produce high levels of wood dust. The English epidemiological study strongly suggests a linkage of these cancers with exposure to hardwood dusts. Nevertheless, case reports from France also relate to exposures that began in the 1950s when softwoods and exotic hardwoods came into use. One report suggests a linkage with exposure to plywood dust for some cases.

The description of the industrial process indicates the use of chemicals for which there is evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and/or experimental animals (see Appendix 4, in this volume). Some of these chemicals are no longer used, but others still are.

5.2 Evaluation

There is sufficient evidence that nasal adenocarcinomas have been caused by employment in the furniture-making industry. The excess risk occurs mainly among those exposed to wood dust. Although adenocarcinomas predominate, an increased risk of other nasal cancers among furniture workers is also suggested. One study showed an increased relative risk for lung cancer (based on four cases from one factory); however, mortality statistics have in general shown no increase in lung cancer. No evaluation of the risk of lung cancer is possible.

For definition of the italicized terms, see Preamble Evaluation.

Subsequent evaluation: Suppl. 7 (1987)

Last updated: 8 April 1998

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       Toxicological Abbreviations