Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Occupational exposure to solvents and risk of lymphoma subtypes: results from the Epilymph case–control study


Background Several studies have suggested an association between occupational exposure to solvents and lymphoma risk. However, findings are inconsistent and the role of specific chemicals is not known.

Objective To investigate the role of occupational exposure to organic solvents in the aetiology of B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (B-NHL) and its major subtypes, as well as Hodgkin's lymphoma and T-cell lymphoma.

Methods 2348 lymphoma cases and 2462 controls participated in a case–control study in six European countries. A subset of cases were reviewed by a panel of pathologists to ensure diagnostic consistency. Exposure to solvents was assessed by industrial hygienists and occupational experts based on a detailed occupational questionnaire.

Results Risk of follicular lymphoma significantly increased with three independent metrics of exposure to benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX) (combined p=4×10−7) and to styrene (p=1×10−5), and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) risk increased with exposure to solvents overall (p=4×10−6), BTX (p=5×10−5), gasoline (p=8×10−5) and other solvents (p=2×10−6). Risk of B-NHL for ever exposure to solvents was not elevated (OR=1.1, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.3), and that for CLL and follicular lymphoma was 1.3 (95% CI 1.1 to 1.6) and 1.3 (95% CI 1.0 to 1.7), respectively. Exposure to benzene accounted, at least partially, for the association observed with CLL risk. Hodgkin's lymphoma and T-cell lymphoma did not show an association with solvent exposure.

Conclusion This analysis of a large European dataset confirms a role of occupational exposure to solvents in the aetiology of B-NHL, and particularly, CLL. It is suggested that benzene is most likely to be implicated, but we cannot exclude the possibility of a role for other solvents in relation to other lymphoma subtypes, such as follicular lymphoma. No association with risk of T-cell lymphoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma was shown.

  • Lymphoma, non-Hodgkin
  • chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
  • solvents
  • benzene

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.