Risk of leukemia and multiple myeloma associated with exposure to benzene and other organic solvents: evidence from the Italian Multicenter Case-control study

Am J Ind Med. 2008 Nov;51(11):803-11. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20592.


Background: While there is a general consensus about the ability of benzene to induce acute myeloid leukemia (AML), its effects on chronic lymphoid leukemia and multiple myeloma (MM) are still under debate. We conducted a population-based case-control study to evaluate the association between exposure to organic solvents and risk of myeloid and lymphoid leukemia and MM.

Methods: Five hundred eighty-six cases of leukemia (and 1,278 population controls), 263 cases of MM (and 1,100 population controls) were collected. Experts assessed exposure at individual level to a range of chemicals.

Results: We found no association between exposure to any solvent and AML. There were elevated point estimates for the associations between medium/high benzene exposure and chronic lymphatic leukemia (OR = 1.8, 95% CI = 0.9-3.9) and MM (OR = 1.9, 95% CI = 0.9-3.9). Risks of chronic lymphatic leukemia were somewhat elevated, albeit with wide confidence intervals, from medium/high exposure to xylene and toluene as well.

Conclusions: We did not confirm the known association between benzene and AML, though this is likely explained by the strict regulation of benzene in Italy nearly three decades prior to study initiation. Our results support the association between benzene, xylene, and toluene and chronic lymphatic leukemia and between benzene and MM with longer latencies than have been observed for AML in other studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benzene / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Myeloma / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Solvents / adverse effects*
  • Toluene / adverse effects
  • Xylenes / adverse effects
  • Young Adult


  • Solvents
  • Xylenes
  • Toluene
  • Benzene