Four hazardous substances commonly found in workplaces have been linked to early onset prostate cancer, according to a study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The study, conducted by researchers with the University of Quebec, involved about 2,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer from 2005 to 2009. Researchers found that men who had prolonged exposure – 25 years or more – to benzene, toluene, xylene, and styrene had a significantly greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing disease, which means it usually takes several years to become large enough to be detectable and takes even longer to spread to other parts of the body. Aggressive prostate cancer is less common.
All four of the hazardous substances are classified as monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and are either known carcinogens or suspected carcinogens. For example, benzene exposure has been linked to leukemia, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
The men in the study who had been exposed to these toxic substances held occupations such as firefighters, shoemakers, automobile and aircraft mechanics, marine craft fabricators, assembling and repairing workers, and printers.
“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,” the researchers noted.
“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.”
Prostate Cancer Foundation