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Occupational exposure to benzene and mortality risk of lymphohaematopoietic cancers in the Swiss National Cohort.

OBJECTIVES: Previous studies established a causal relationship between occupational benzene exposure and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, mixed results have been reported for associations between benzene exposure and other myeloid and lymphoid malignancies. Our work examined whether occupational benzene exposure is associated with increased mortality from overall lymphohaematopoietic (LH) cancer and major subtypes.

METHODS: Mortality records were linked to a Swiss census-based cohort from two national censuses in 1990 and 2000. Cases were defined as having any LH cancers registered in death certificates. We assessed occupational exposure by applying a quantitative benzene job-exposure matrix (BEN-JEM) to census-reported occupations. Exposure was calculated as the products of exposure proportions and levels (P × L). Cox proportional hazards models were used to calculate LH cancer death hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) associated with benzene exposure, continuously and in ordinal categories.

RESULTS: Our study included approximately 2.97 million persons and 13 415 LH cancer cases, including 3055 cases with benzene exposure. We observed increased mortality risks per unit (P × L) increase in continuous benzene exposure for AML (HR 1.03, 95% CI 1.00-1.06) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.04-1.14). When exposure was assessed categorically, increasing trends in risks were observed with increasing benzene exposure for AML (P=0.04), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (P=0.02), and follicular lymphoma (P=0.05).

CONCLUSION: In a national cohort from Switzerland, we found that occupational exposure to benzene is associated with elevated mortality risks for AML, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and possibly follicular lymphoma.

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