Tetrachloroethene and cancer. Critical review and synthesis of the epidemiological literature

Project No. BIA 0075


completed 04/2001


Tetrachloroethene (PCE) is employed in metal cleaning and degreasing and in the dry-cleaning industry. PCE is classified as a suspected carcinogen (K3). The results of epidemiological studies describe an increased risk for certain cancer sites; the data are not consistent, however. The objective of the project was to incorporate, comprehensively and critically, the results of epidemiological studies.


The epidemiological literature on PCE exposure and carcinogenicity was comprehensively and critically incorporated in this project. A systematic literature search revealed 81 published studies on the subject of tetrachloroethene and cancer. Each study was subjected to a critical review in order to ascertain the quality of the data and methods. The results of the relevant studies were compiled for each of 17 specific cancer sites.


The available literature is severely limited regarding methods (estimation of exposure and confounding), and yields heterogeneous results. None of the studies is adequately conclusive, and the epidemiological findings are inadequate, overall, to demonstrate convincingly that a relationship, whether weak or strong, exists between PCE exposure and cancer. As certain indications of a relationship do exist, however, the suspicion cannot be disregarded.

Further informations:

Last Update:



Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
  • Textil- und Bekleidungs-Berufsgenossenschaft
Research institution(s):
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz - BIA
  • Applied Epidemiology Inc. (IEA)
  • Institut für angewandte Biometrie und Epidemiologie (IBE)

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren, Gefahrstoffe


Epidemiologie, Krebserregende Stoffe, Arbeitsumwelt (Belastungen, Gefährdungen, Expositionen, Risiken)

Description, key words:

perchloroethylene, PCE, tetrachloroethylene, tetrachloroethene, epidemiology, risk, cancer, meta-analysis