Is Long-Term BTX Exposure Linked to Bladder Cancer?

Public Health

Is Long-Term BTX Exposure Linked to Bladder Cancer?

"The current study expands our understanding of what professions are at higher risk for bladder cancer and may need more thorough evaluation."

Cumulative exposure to “occupational” solvents such as benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX) is linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, according to a study.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Urology and presented at the American Urological Association (AUA) 2023 annual conference in Chicago.

Researchers say this is the first study to establish a higher risk of bladder cancer connected to cumulative exposure to BTX. Professionals such as automobile mechanics, automotive body repairers, painters, and shoe machine operators are likely to be exposed to so-called occupational solvents such as BTX.

"The current study expands our understanding of what professions are at higher risk for bladder cancer and may need more thorough evaluation," said Dr. Martha K. Terris, a professor of urology at the Medical College of Georgia.

Occupational in nature

Researchers assessed the effects of 21 occupational solvents on bladder cancer by comparing 1,182 patients diagnosed with bladder cancer to 1,408 individuals from a population-based study.

Dr. Stella Koutros, an epidemiologist who helped conduct the study, told those in attendance during a session at AUA 2023 that when exposed to cumulative BTX for extended periods, the odds of getting bladder cancer are higher than those who have not been exposed.

Exposure to cumulative BTX is not only confined to jobs where these substances are present but can occur in the general environment from:

  • Industrial emissions
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Gas stations
  • Motor vehicles

A study published in 2020 found that up to 10 percent of bladder cancer cases were considered occupational due to long-term exposure to harmful substances like diesel fumes, plant fumes, coal, oil, and gas products.

Some occupations with the highest levels of carcinogens in the workplace include:

  • Textile workers
  • Chemical industries
  • Leather industries
  • Truckers

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 16,710 people will die of bladder cancer in the U.S. in 2023.

Early detection is key

Early detection is crucial — early diagnosis lowers bladder cancer mortality rates and can improve a person's quality of life.

To be screened for bladder cancer, patients may undergo a cystoscopy — an endoscopic procedure where a narrow, small tube is placed into the urethra for a healthcare provider to examine the urinary tract.

Cystoscopies are conventional endoscopic procedures and, according to some urologists, are still considered the gold standard in bladder cancer diagnosis.

The average five-year survival rate for patients with localized bladder cancer in the U.S. is 77 percent, according to the American Bladder Cancer Society.

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