Risk analysis : an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis

Epidemiologic evidence for chloroprene carcinogenicity: review of study quality and its application to risk assessment.

PMID 19558388


This article evaluates the quality and weight of evidence associated with epidemiologic studies of cancer among occupational cohorts exposed to chloroprene. The focus is on liver, lung, and lymphohematopoietic cancers, which had been increased in early studies. Literature searches identified eight morbidity/mortality studies covering seven chloroprene-exposed cohorts from six countries. These studies were summarized and their quality was assessed using the 10 criteria suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The limitations within this literature (primarily the early studies) included crude exposure assessment, incomplete follow-up, uncertain baseline rates, and uncontrolled confounding by factors such as smoking, drinking, and co-exposure to benzene and vinyl chloride. Four cohorts were studied by the same group of investigators, who reported no overall increased associations for any cancers. This four-cohort study was by far the most rigorous, having the most comprehensive exposure assessment and follow-up and the most detailed documentation. This study also contained the two largest cohorts, including an American cohort from Louisville, Kentucky, that ranked at or near the top for each of the 10 quality criteria. There was evidence of a strong healthy worker effect in the four-cohort study, which could have hidden small excess risks. Small increased risks were suggested by internal or company-specific analyses, but these were most likely caused by uncontrolled confounding and low baseline rates. Overall, the weight of evidence does not support any substantial link between chloroprene exposure and cancer, but inconsistencies and a lack of control for major confounders preclude drawing firmer conclusions.