International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the role of this risk factor in cancer development. 13% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by workplace exposures.
Lung cancer risk is 68% higher in people who have been exposed to silica compared to those who have not been exposed, a meta-analysis of cohort studies showed. The industries of concern included mining, pottery and construction.
People with silicosis were around two and half times more likely to get lung cancer, while no effect was seen for people without silicosis who were exposed to silica, a meta-analysis of cohort studies showed.
Diesel engine exhaust
An estimated 0.02% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to occupational exposure to diesel engine exhaust.
Lung cancer risk is 19-47% higher in professional drivers compared with the general population, meta-analyses have shown;[13, 14] however, the evidence does not allow a dose-response relationship to be established. Lung cancer risk associated with diesel exhaust exposure varies markedly by occupation group; most evidence comes from highly-exposed workers including drivers and mechanics.[3,13,16]
Working as a painter
An estimated 0.01% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to working as a painter.
Lung cancer risk is 22-57% higher in painters compared with the general population, meta-analyses have shown.[17,19] Confounding by solvent exposure is possible, though evidence is unclear.[17,18]
An estimated 0.01% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to TCDD (typically in metal and pesticide production).
Lung cancer death risk is 22% higher in pesticide production workers compared with the general population, a meta-analysis showed.
An estimated 0.01% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to working in sites of naturally-occurring high radon.
An estimated 0.01% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to mineral oil exposure (typically in metalworkers and printworkers).
Arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds
An estimated 0.003% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds (typically in metal production, pesticide production/use, wood preservation).
Arsenic exposure increases lung cancer risk more in people who smoke than in those who don't.[23-25]
Working as a welder
An estimated 0.001% of lung cancers in Britain are linked to working as a welder.
Lung cancer risk is 26% higher in welders compared with the general population, a meta-analysis showed.
Other occupational exposures
Lung cancer risk may be higher in rock wool and glass wool production workers (though not end-users), a meta-analysis found; however residual confounding by smoking and asbestos exposure is likely.
Lung cancer risk is higher in iron and steel foundry workers, a meta-analysis showed.
UK portrait version shown here. Country versions, cancers caused by other risk factors, and landscape formats are available for free from our cancer risk publications.