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BACKGROUND - The association between benzene exposure and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has been the subject of debate as a result of inconsistent epidemiologic evidence. An International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group evaluated benzene in 2009 and noted evidence for a positive association between benzene exposure and NHL risk.
OBJECTIVE - We evaluated the association between occupational benzene exposure and NHL among 73,087 women enrolled in the prospective population-based Shanghai Women's Health Study.
METHODS - Benzene exposure estimates were derived using a previously developed exposure assessment framework that combined ordinal job-exposure matrix intensity ratings with quantitative benzene exposure measurements from an inspection database of Shanghai factories collected between 1954 and 2000. Associations between benzene exposure metrics and NHL (n = 102 cases) were assessed using Cox proportional hazard models, with study follow-up occurring from December 1996 through December 2009.
RESULTS - Women ever exposed to benzene had a significantly higher risk of NHL [hazard ratio (HR) = 1.87, 95% CI: 1.19, 2.96]. Compared with unexposed women, significant trends in NHL risk were observed for increasing years of benzene exposure (p(trend) = 0.006) and increasing cumulative exposure levels (p(trend) = 0.005), with the highest duration and cumulative exposure tertiles having a significantly higher association with NHL (HR = 2.07, 95% CI: 1.07, 4.01 and HR = 2.16, 95% CI: 1.17, 3.98, respectively).
CONCLUSIONS - Our findings, using a population-based prospective cohort of women with diverse occupational histories, provide additional evidence that occupational exposure to benzene is associated with NHL risk.