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Is occupational exposure to solvents associated with an increased risk for developing systemic scleroderma?

Author(s): Kütting Birgitta | Uter Wolfgang | Drexler Hans

Journal: Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology
ISSN 1745-6673

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 15;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Abstract Background Our study was aimed to investigate in a German collective if there are any hints for an increased occupational or environmental risk to develop systemic sclerosis, especially, focussing on work-related exposure to solvents. Moreover, we tried to evaluate the feasibility of a sampling method addressing support groups. Methods A standardised questionnaire was published in two journals subscribed by members of two different support groups and all members were asked to complete the questionnaire and to return it anonymously. The subjects were not informed on the scientific hypotheses, nor did they know who of them belonged to the case group (scleroderma) or to the control group (multiple sclerosis). Results 175 questionnaires could be included in the statistical analysis. As expected, a female predominance was in our collective. In the male subpopulation, the occupational exposure to solvents was higher in the case group than in the control-group (70% versus 45.8%). Based only on the male subgroup, a tendency for an association between occupational exposure to solvents and the risk to develop systemic sclerosis was found. Conclusion According to our experience in this case-control-study exposure misclassification, qualitative or quantitative, was an eminent problem. Within such a setting, it is generally very difficult to establish an exact dose-response relationship due to incomplete, imprecise or missing data concerning duration of exposure, frequency of use and kind of solvent. Additionally, a well-known problem in studies based on self-reported questionnaires is the so-called volunteer bias. Unfortunately, but similar to other studies assessing epidemiologic factors in such a rare disease, our study was of limited power, especially in the subgroups defined by gender.
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Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona