Exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and bladder cancer: evaluation from a gene-environment perspective in a hospital-based case-control study in the Canary Islands (Spain)

Int J Occup Environ Health. 2015;21(1):23-30. doi: 10.1179/2049396714Y.0000000085. Epub 2014 Oct 8.


Background: Exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has been linked to bladder cancer.

Objective: To evaluate the role of PAHs in bladder cancer, PAHs serum levels were measured in patients and controls from a case-control study.

Methods: A total of 140 bladder cancer patients and 206 healthy controls were included in the study. Sixteen PAHs were analyzed from the serum of subjects by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Results: Serum PAHs did not appear to be related to bladder cancer risk, although the profile of contamination by PAHs was different between patients and controls: pyrene (Pyr) was solely detected in controls and chrysene (Chry) was exclusively detected in the cases. Phenanthrene (Phe) serum levels were inversely associated with bladder cancer (OR = 0·79, 95%CI = 0·64-0·99, P = 0·030), although this effect disappeared when the allelic distribution of glutathione-S-transferase polymorphisms of the population was introduced into the model (multinomial logistic regression test, P = 0·933). Smoking (OR = 3·62, 95%CI = 1·93-6·79, P<0·0001) and coffee consumption (OR = 1·73, 95%CI = 1·04-2·86, P = 0·033) were relevant risk factors for bladder cancer.

Conclusions: Specific PAH mixtures may play a relevant role in bladder cancer, although such effect seems to be highly modulated by polymorphisms in genes encoding xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes.

Keywords: Bladder cancer,; Gene-environment interaction; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,; Risk profession,.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Coffee / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants* / blood
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons* / blood
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Coffee
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons