How Benzene Causes Diseases
Benzene diseases develop because, simply put, benzene affects the blood and the blood-forming organs, such as bone marrow.
One can be exposed to benzene through inhalation or by dermal absorption. While most people are exposed to small amounts of benzene through air pollution, gasoline fumes, and cigarette smoke, those most at risk of benzene-related cancers typically have occupational exposures to benzene on a semi-regular basis.
In cases of excessive exposure, benzene can also compromise the immune system, making it difficult to fight off infections and even some cancers.
It can take years from the time workers are exposed to benzene before they develop any symptoms of benzene-related blood cancers.
For more information on the relationship between benzene and specific types of cancers, see our Benzene Cancer Resources page.
According to the American Cancer Society, benzene exposure is most strongly associated with leukemia (cancer of blood-forming tissues), specifically acute myeloid (or myelogenous) leukemia (AML).
Aplastic anemia can also be caused by exposure to benzene, and is a condition that can develop into other forms of blood and bone marrow cancers.
Research indicates that benzene exposure is also associated with an increased risk of developing myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). MDS is often classified as a precursor to leukemia, and is sometimes referred to as “pre-leukemia”. For those diagnosed with MDS, there is a fairly high risk of developing AML later in time.
There is also some evidence that benzene exposure may cause the following types of cancers to develop:
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
For more information on treatment and diagnosis options for specific types of cancers related to benzene exposure, see our Benzene Cancer Resources page.
- Overview of Benzene Exposures
- Exposure to Benzene
- Workers Exposed to Benzene
- Benzene Exposure in Industries
- Benzene-Containing Products
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Benzene Cancer Resources
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