Four Common Workplace Substances Linked to Prostate Cancer

A new Canadian study has linked four common hazardous substances to an aggressive form of early onset prostate cancer.

The researchers from the University of Quebec studied nearly 2000 men who developed prostate cancer between 2005 and 2009. They found prolonged exposure (more than 25 years) to benzene, toluene, xylene and styrene was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing the disease.

The researchers say benzene, toluene, xylene and styrene - all of which are classified as monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - are all suspected or known carcinogens. They say their research is an important first step in better understanding the relationship between occupational agents and prostate cancer.

Firefighters, shoemakers, motor vehicle and aircraft mechanics, marine craft fabricating, assembling and repairing workers and printers made up the vast majority of studied occupations.

The researchers say workers are often exposed to benzene, toluene, and xylene during the manufacturing of polymers, rubber products, shoes and synthetic fibres, and in printing, painting and leather tanning.

"Industrial production of benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX) is mainly derived from petroleum, and these are used as intermediates in the chemical industry and as solvents in paints, inks, dyes, thinners, adhesives and coatings.”

"Service station attendants and drivers may also be exposed to BTX, used as additives in gasoline. Styrene is produced from benzene, with uses including the production of plastics, synthetic rubber and reinforced plastics products such as watercraft and automobile parts."

The complete study was published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine and can be accessed here.

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