Aberrations in chromosomes associated with lymphoma and therapy-related leukemia in benzene-exposed workers

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2007 Jul;48(6):467-74. doi: 10.1002/em.20306.


Epidemiological studies show that benzene exposure is associated with an increased incidence of leukemia and perhaps lymphoma. Chromosomal rearrangements are common in these hematopoietic diseases. Translocation t(14;18), the long-arm deletion of chromosome 6 [del(6q)], and trisomy 12 are frequently observed in lymphoma patients. Rearrangements of the MLL gene located on chromosome 11q23, such as t(4;11) and t(6;11), are common in therapy-related leukemias resulting from treatment with topoisomerase II inhibiting drugs. To examine numerical and structural changes in these chromosomes (2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 14, and 18), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was employed on metaphase spreads from workers exposed to benzene (n = 43) and matched controls (n = 44) from Shanghai, China. Aneuploidy (both monosomy and trisomy) of all seven chromosomes was increased by benzene exposure. Benzene also induced del(6q) in a dose-dependent manner (P(trend) = 0.0002). Interestingly, translocations between chromosomes 14 and 18, t(14;18), known to be associated with follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma, were increased in the highly exposed workers (P < 0.001). On the other hand, translocations between chromosome 11 and other partner chromosomes that are found in therapy-induced leukemias were not increased. These data add weight to the notion that benzene can induce t(14;18) and del(6q) found in lymphoma, but do not support the idea that benzene induces t(4;11) or t(6;11). However, they do not rule out the possibility that other rearrangements of the MLL gene at chromosome 11q23 may be induced by benzene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzene / administration & dosage*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Leukemia / genetics*
  • Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Male
  • Monosomy
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / genetics*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Translocation, Genetic
  • Workforce


  • Benzene