Paint Exposure May Increase Cancer Risk

March 20, 2002
Occupational exposure to paint may cause an increased risk of cancer, according to a new study published in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Occupational exposure to paint may cause in increased risk of cancer, according to a new study published in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers examining data from the Swedish Cancer Registry and the Swedish census found a "significantly increased" risk of lung cancer among painters and lacquerers; bladder cancer among artists; and pancreas cancer, lung cancer and nonlymphocytic leukemia among paint and varnish plant workers. Cancer risks for women were elevated for cancers of the esophagus, larynx and oral cavity among lacquerers and for oral cancer among glazers.

"These findings are consistent [with the 1989 report issued by a working group from the International Agency for Research on Cancer] that classified painting as an occupationally related cause of cancer and provide further evidence that the risk of certain cancers is increased by exposures in the paint manufacturing process," said researchers, who were primarily from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Researchers examined a total of 42,433 men and 3,992 women employed in various painting trades during the 1960 census and the 1970 census and compared those lists to the Swedish Register of Causes of Death and the Swedish Cancer Register.

"Most painters in Sweden worked in the building construction industry and were exposed to high levels of organic solvents, paint dust containing a variety of pigments, including lead and zinc chromate and a variety of other inorganic dusts," according to the study.

Although researchers found higher rates of cancer among the women than the men," they noted the reasons for the gender differences in risk are unclear. "Exposure to solvents may be higher in women because of their greater fat depots available for storage or to variations in the ability to detoxify environmental carcinogens," they added.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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