School of Population and Global Health

Exposure to diesel exhaust and lung cancer in Australia

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia in both males and females. Almost 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. In Australia, 29% of lung cancers among males and 5% of lung cancers among females may be caused by occupational exposures (e.g. asbestos, silica and diesel).

Diesel exhaust has recently been classified as a carcinogen. Most evidence came from US studies in the mining and trucking industries. Until today, no such studies have been done in Australia, although 14% of the Australian workforce is estimated to be occupationally exposed to diesel exhaust. In addition, because exposure to diesel exhaust extends beyond the workplace, lung cancer risk due to diesel exhaust is relevant for the whole community. Australia lags behind many comparable countries regarding the implementation of emission standards.

Research plan

Aim 1 (2014-2015):

In this project we will establish a cohort of all miners in WA (1996-2012), link this cohort to the cancer register and mortality records on an individual level, and estimate the lung cancer risk among WA miners over the background risk.

Aim 2 (2014-2015):

Secondly we will use a database of diesel exhaust monitoring results to determine exposure levels in mines and factors influencing those levels. We will then apply the diesel exhaust measures to information on the WA mining workforce to describe the extent of diesel exhaust exposure among WA miners.

Aim 3 (2016):

We will then link the exposure levels from Aim 2 to the cohort from Aim 1 to describe the exposure-response relation between diesel exhaust and lung cancer.

Aim 4 (2016):

We will extrapolate to the Australian population to estimate the attributable fraction of lung cancers due to occupational exposure to diesel exhaust in Australia.

This project will inform the setting of emission standards for diesel exhaust and permit focused interventions to reduce exposure. Reducing exposure levels will reduce the burden of lung cancer in the whole community.


This project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (project grant #1069535) and the WA Department of Health (Targeted Research Fund)


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Last updated:
Thursday, 5 February, 2015 12:09 PM