Am J Ind Med. 2023 Sep;66(9):728-735. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23508. Epub 2023 Jun 11.
OBJECTIVES: To elucidate whether occupational exposure to soft paper dust increases the incidence of cancer.
METHODS: We studied 7988 workers in Swedish soft paper mills from 1960 to 2008, of whom 3233 (2 187 men and 1046 women) had more than 10 years of employment. They were divided into high exposure (>5 mg/m3 for >1 year) or lower exposure to soft paper dust based on a validated job-exposure matrix. They were followed from 1960 to 2019, and person-years at risk were stratified according to gender, age, and calendar-year. The expected numbers of incident tumors were calculated using the Swedish population as the reference, and standardized incidence ratios (SIR) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were assessed.
RESULTS: Among high-exposure workers with more than 10 years of employment, there was an increased incidence of colon cancer (SIR 1.66, 95% CI 1.20-2.31), small intestine cancer (SIR 3.27, 95% CI 1.36-7.86), and thyroid gland cancer (SIR 2.68, 95% CI 1.11-6.43), as well as lung cancer (SIR 1.56, 95% CI 1.12-2.19). Among the lower-exposed workers there was an increased incidence of connective tissue tumors (sarcomas) (SIR 2.26, 95% CI 1.13-4.51) and pleural mesothelioma (SIR 3.29, 95% CI 1.37-7.91).
CONCLUSION: Workers in soft paper mills with high exposure to soft paper dust have an increased incidence of large and small intestine tumors. Whether the increased risk is caused by paper dust exposure or some unknown associated factors is unclear. The increased incidence of pleural mesothelioma is probably linked to asbestos exposure. The reason for increased incidence of sarcomas is unknown.