Benzene and the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a review and meta-analysis of the literature

Cancer Epidemiol. 2010 Feb;34(1):7-12. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2009.12.011. Epub 2010 Jan 13.


Benzene, an accepted leukemogen, has been suggested to cause other hemato- and lymphopoietic cancers. Here we review the published literature for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and occupational exposure to benzene. Six cohorts, sixteen case-control studies and two studies of other designs were identified through keyword searches of bibliographic databases. Twenty-two of twenty-four studies found no association between NHL and ever exposed to benzene compared to never; a random-effects meta-analysis gave a pooled risk estimate of 1.11 (95% confidence interval 0.94-1.30). Our finding of no effect agrees with one of two previous meta-analyses. The other meta-analysis examined if high benzene exposure increased NHL risk but a lack of consistent exposure categories within the same metric should have precluded pooling risks by exposure level. Instead, we reviewed whether dose-response relationships existed. The best available data came from six studies where exposure was estimated from historical measurements and on the whole, no trends in risks of NHL with rising cumulative, average, peak, or duration of benzene exposure were found. NHL is a heterogeneous group of malignancies and although less well-studied, benzene was not associated with any NHL subtype. In conclusion, benzene at either low or high doses does not increase the risk of NHL.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzene / toxicity*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Carcinogens
  • Benzene