Former Vol basketball player blames benzene, radiation for leukemia diagnosis

Tennessee Volunteers basketball Wikimedia Commons 280x210 Former Vol basketball player blames benzene, radiation for leukemia diagnosisFormer Tennessee Volunteer basketball great Tony White, known to fans as “The Wizard,” was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in September and is now embarked on the fight of his life. White is considered one of the most prolific scorers in Tennessee basketball history.

Former Vol teammates and Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes have visited White in the hospital. “I just ask everybody that thoughts and prayers go his way. I’ve been over there a couple of times and he’s fighting,” Barnes said.

White played at UT from 1983 to 1987. “The leukemia completely changed my life, and I have not been able to work since my diagnosis,” he said on his GofundMe page.

Since his diagnosis in September, White has had two rounds of 30-day inpatient chemotherapy, which put his cancer in remission. “But my doctor says that the type of cancer I have will evolve and come back stronger … unless I have a bone marrow transplant.”

White believes he developed his leukemia from exposure to carcinogenic chemicals at his workplace. “The only risk factor I had was exposure to benzene and radiation at work,” he said.

Benzene is one of the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States, used mainly as an agent in the manufacturing of other chemicals, like plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, and solvents. It is also used as a gasoline additive. While its use has been reduced in recent years because it was identified as a carcinogen, people who work in these industries remain at increased risk of developing certain cancers, especially those that affect the blood cells, like leukemia and, especially, acute myeloid leukemia.