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.
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:
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:
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.