Handling chemotherapy drugs-Do medical gloves really protect?

Int J Cancer. 2015 Oct 15;137(8):1800-5. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29058. Epub 2014 Jul 22.


Due to their potential mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic effects occupational exposure to chemotherapy drugs should be kept to a minimum. Utilization of personnel protective devices, especially the use of protective medical gloves, is a mainstay to avoid skin contact. The choice of appropriate gloves is of outstanding importance. For optimal protection in the oncology setting it is essential to establish general guidelines evaluating appropriate materials and defining quality standards. Establishing these guidelines can facilitate better handling and avoid potential hazards and late sequelae. In Europe there are no specific requirements or test methodologies for medical gloves used in the oncology environment. The implementation of uniform standards for gloves used while handling chemotherapy drugs would be desirable. In contrast, in the US medical gloves used to handle chemotherapy drugs have to fulfill requirements according to the ASTM International (American Society of Testing and Materials) standard D 6978-05. Nitrile or natural rubber latex is a preferred basic glove material, while vinyl is considered inappropriate because of its generally increased permeability. For extended exposure to chemotherapy drugs, double gloving, the use of thicker gloves and the frequent change of gloves increases their protective power.

Keywords: basic glove materials: latex; chemotherapy drugs; nitrile; prevention in health care workers; speciality patient examination gloves; vinyl.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Europe
  • Gloves, Protective* / standards
  • Humans
  • Latex
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Latex