Cumulative occupational exposure to the solvents benzene, toluene, and xylene is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, according to data presented at the American Urological Association’s 2023 Annual Meeting.

A team led by Stella Koutros, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, evaluated exposure to 21 individual solvents and the effects on bladder cancer risk in a cohort of 1182 patients with incident bladder cancer and a control group of 1408 individuals.

Because exposure to benzene, toluene, and xylene often occur together, the investigators evaluated the effects of exposure to all 3 together.

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Individuals in the second, third, and fourth quartile of cumulative benzene-toluene-zylene exposure had significant 1.5-, 1.9-, and 2.2-fold increased odds of being diagnosed with bladder cancer compared with unexposed individuals, after the researchers adjusted for potential confounders, Dr Koutros reported during a virtual press conference.

This study is the first to document an increased risk of bladder cancer associated with cumulative exposure to benzene-toluene-zylene. Occupations involving exposure to benzene-toluene-zylene include automobile mechanics, automotive body repairers, painters, and shoe machine operators, according to the investigators.

Although bladder cancer has been linked to several occupations that involve the use of solvents, only perchloroethylene, which is used in dry cleaning, is classified as probably carcinogenic to human beings, the investigators noted. The risk posed by other commonly used solvents has been unclear.

The investigators noted that benzene-toluene-zylene exposure is not limited to occupations that involve use of these solvents. Exposure can occur in the general environment from industrial emissions, tobacco smoke, gas stations, and motor vehicle exhaust.

“The current study expands our understanding of what professions are at higher risk for bladder cancer and may need more thorough evaluation,” said press conference moderator Martha K. Terris, MD, of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.


Xie S, Friesen M, Barus D, et al. Occupational exposure to organic solvents and risk of bladder cancer. Presented at: AUA 2023, April 28-May 1, Chicago, Illinois. Abstract MP22-13.

This article originally appeared on Renal and Urology News