Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Lung cancer mortality in towns near paper, pulp and board industries in Spain: a point source pollution study

Susana Monge-Corella12, Javier García-Pérez12, Nuria Aragonés12, Marina Pollán12, Beatriz Pérez-Gómez12 and Gonzalo López-Abente12*

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer and Environmental Epidemiology Area, National Centre for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Madrid, Spain

2 CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Madrid, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:288  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-288

Published: 14 August 2008



This study sought to ascertain whether there might be excess lung cancer mortality among the population residing in the vicinity of Spanish paper and board industries which report their emissions to the European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER).


This was an ecological study that modelled the Standardised Mortality Ratio (SMR) for lung cancer in 8073 Spanish towns over the period 1994–2003. Population exposure to industrial pollution was estimated on the basis of distance from town of residence to pollution source. An exploratory, near-versus-far analysis was conducted, using mixed Poisson regression models and an analysis of the effect of municipal proximity within a 50-kilometre radius of each of the 18 installations.


Results varied for the different facilities. In two instances there was an increasing mortality gradient with proximity to the installation, though this was exclusively observed among men.


The study of cancer mortality in areas surrounding pollutant foci is a useful tool for environmental surveillance, and serves to highlight areas of interest susceptible to being investigated by ad hoc studies. Despite present limitations, recognition is therefore due to the advance represented by publication of the EPER and the study of pollutant foci.