Epidemiological synopsis of benzene and leukemia

Project No. BIA 0062


completed 12/2001


Despite the extensive literature available on the association between benzene and leukemia, a clear dose response relationship has not yet been established. This project analysed epidemiological study results on leukemia from sectors involving benzene exposure, and on exposure to benzene both in isolation and in combination with other substances. The data were compared to sector-specific exposure data from other studies which allow statements about normal exposure ranges. The currently known associations between benzene and leukemia were summarized. The intention of the project was to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date and quantitative summary of exposure and risk data for the relationship between benzene and leukemia.


Extensive literature searches were performed in order to identify the following studies: specific studies of the branches including investigations of the leukemia risks; epidemiological studies into leukemia and benzene; studies containing benzene exposure data from occupational and environmental sources; reviews and meta-analyses; secondary literature relevant to the topic. The benzene exposure data were presented by branch. Epidemiological studies were collected and grouped into cohort and case-control studies. The ascertained relative risks were presented by branch and, where applicable, by leukemia type.


The leukemia risk through benzene exposure seems worldwide somewhat higher in the rubber and chemicals industry, at filling stations, and among motor mechanics. The acute forms of leukemia (ALL, AML) appear to be more common in the occupations formerly subject to high levels of exposure, such as painters and shoemakers. Owing to the low number of studies performed and the high statistical spread of the detected risks, however, no validated conclusions can be drawn with regard to the type of leukemia. The low number of cases in the majority of studies and the long latency of leukemia make interpretation of the study results considerably more difficult. Current knowledge does not enable clear conclusions to be drawn regarding the risk associated with benzene of a particular type of leukemia.

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Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
Research institution(s):
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz - BIA

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren, Gefahrstoffe


Epidemiologie, Krebserregende Stoffe, Prävention

Description, key words:

exposure, benzene, leukemia, epidemiology, review