Workers Can Get Job-Related Benzene Diseases and Cancers Many Years Later
Benzene Diseases: Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
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 by breathing in benzene fumes, which is generally referred to as inhalation exposure. In addition, there are dermal exposures to benzene, which happens when benzene gets on the skin and, in turn, there is skin or dermal absorption of benzene.
During our lives, we all can be exposed to small amounts of benzene through air pollution, gasoline fumes, and cigarette smoke. However, it is those people who worked with or around benzene on a regular basis during their employment who are most at risk of developing benzene diseases. Those benzene exposures in the workplace or on the job site are often called occupational exposures.
Occupational benzene exposures are 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 acute myeloid (or myelogenous) leukemia (AML), which is one of the benzene cancers.
Aplastic anemia can also be caused by workplace and job exposures to benzene. Aplastic anemia is a medical condition that can develop into certain forms of blood and bone marrow cancers.
It can take many years from the time when workers were exposed to benzene in the workplace or on the job site before they develop benzene diseases due to the so-called “latency period“, which is discussed a bit more in the next section.
Benzene Cancers: Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
Work-related benzene exposure in the past is associated with certain types of leukemia (cancer of blood-forming tissues), especially acute myeloid leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
There is also some medical evidence that occupational benzene exposure years ago can cause these other types of leukemia and cancers:
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
It is important to know that the latency period — which is, in effect, a delay or lag time — from a person’s benzene exposure in the past to their diagnosis of a benzene cancer (or a benzene disease) can range from as little as a few months to as much as 30 years.
For more information on the diagnosis process and the treatment options for specific types of cancers related to benzene exposure, see our Benzene Cancer Resources page.
Benzene-exposed workers who have been diagnosed with benzene diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or benzene cancers like acute myeloid leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) may have a possible legal case. We represent people in benzene lawsuits and benzene workers’ compensation claims around the country and have done so for many years.
- Overview of Benzene Exposures
- Exposure to Benzene
- Workers Exposed to Benzene
- Benzene Exposure in Industries
- Benzene-Containing Products
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Benzene Cancer Resources