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Butadiene or styrene or butadiene and styrene or else?
  1. K Straif,
  2. R Baan,
  3. V Cogliano
  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K Straif
 International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150, cours Albert Thomas, F-69372 Lyon cedex 08, France; straif{at}

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Commentary on the paper by Sathiakumar et al (Occup Environ Med, December 2005)*

In the December 2005 issue of this journal, Sathiakumar and colleagues1 report on the extended follow up of the University of Alabama cohort in the styrene–butadiene–rubber industry. The update confirms the increased risk of haemato-lymphopoietic malignancies in work areas with high exposure to butadiene and styrene. This study is both potentially informative and at the centre of controversies regarding the evidence for the human carcinogenicity of butadiene and styrene.

In 1999, an IARC Working Group concluded that butadiene is “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A) on the basis of “limited evidence” of carcinogenicity in humans and “sufficient evidence” in experimental animals.2 A case-control study nested in the University of Alabama cohort3 showed a consistent excess of leukaemia and a statistically significant dose–response relationship with cumulative exposure to 1,3-butadiene, which remained after adjustment for exposure to styrene. Studies among workers in butadiene production reported an excess of lymphohaematopoietic cancers.

In 2002 a separate IARC Working Group concluded that styrene is “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B) on the basis …

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  • Competing interests: none

  • The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of IARC