Occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and risk of prostate cancer


Background: Several industries entailing exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are known or suspected carcinogens. A handful of studies have assessed the role of PAHs exposure in prostate cancer risk, but none has examined tumor aggressiveness or the influence of screening practices and detection issues. We aimed to examine the association between lifetime occupational exposure to PAHs and prostate cancer risk.

Methods: Detailed work histories were collected from 1,929 prostate cancer cases (436 aggressive) and 1,994 controls from Montreal, Canada (2005-2012). Industrial hygienists applied the hybrid expert approach to assign intensity, frequency and certainty of exposure to benzo[a]pyrene, PAHs from wood, coal, petroleum, other sources, and any source, in each job held. Odds ratios (ORs) for prostate cancer risk associated with lifetime PAHs exposure, adjusted for age, ancestry, education, lifestyle and occupational factors, and 95% confidence intervals (CI), were estimated using unconditional logistic regression.

Results: After restriction to probable and definite exposures, and application of a 5-year lag, no clear association emerged for any of the PAHs, although small excesses in risk were apparent with 5-year increments in exposure to PAHs from wood (OR = 1.06, 95%CI 0.95 to 1.18). While analyses by cancer aggressiveness suggested no major differences, some elevated risk of high-grade cancer was observed for exposure to PAHs from wood (OR = 1.37, 95%CI 0.65 to 2.89), frequently occurring among firefighters.

Conclusion: Findings provide weak support for an association between occupational exposure to PAHs from wood and prostate cancer risk.