Boffetta P, Fryzek JP, Mandel JS. 2012. Occupational exposure to beryllium and cancer risk: A review of the epidemiologic evidence. Crit Rev Toxicol 42(2):107-118.
There is controversy on whether occupational exposure to beryllium causes lung cancer. We conducted a systematic review of epidemiologic studies on cancer among workers exposed to beryllium, including a study of seven U.S. production plants which has been recently updated, a study of patients with beryllium disease (largely overlapping with the former study) and several smaller studies. A small excess mortality from lung cancer was detected in the large cohort, which was partially explained by confounding by tobacco smoking and urban residence. Other potential confounders have not been addressed. The excess mortality was mainly among workers employed (often for a short duration) in the early phase of the manufacturing industry. There was no relation with duration of employment or cumulative exposure, whereas average and maximum exposure were associated with lung cancer risk. The use of lagged exposure variables resulted in associations with lung cancer risk; however, these associations were due to confounding by year of birth and year of hire. The studies of beryllium disease patients do not provide independent evidence and the results from other studies do not support the hypothesis of an increased risk of lung cancer or any other cancer. Overall, the available evidence does not support a conclusion that a causal association has been established between occupational exposure to beryllium and the risk of cancer.