Non-radiation risk factors for leukemia: A case-control study among chornobyl cleanup workers in Ukraine

Environ Res. 2015 Oct;142:72-6. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.06.019. Epub 2015 Jun 24.


Background: Occupational and environmental exposure to chemicals such as benzene has been linked to increased risk of leukemia. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption have also been found to affect leukemia risk. Previous analyses in a large cohort of Chornobyl clean-up workers in Ukraine found significant radiation-related increased risk for all leukemia types. We investigated the potential for additional effects of occupational and lifestyle factors on leukemia risk in this radiation-exposed cohort.

Methods: In a case-control study of chronic lymphocytic and other leukemias among Chornobyl cleanup workers, we collected data on a range of non-radiation exposures. We evaluated these and other potential risk factors in analyses adjusting for estimated bone marrow radiation dose. We calculated Odds Ratios and 95% Confidence Intervals in relation to lifestyle factors and occupational hazards.

Results: After adjusting for radiation, we found no clear association of leukemia risk with smoking or alcohol but identified a two-fold elevated risk for non-CLL leukemia with occupational exposure to petroleum (OR=2.28; 95% Confidence Interval 1.13, 6.79). Risks were particularly high for myeloid leukemias. No associations with risk factors other than radiation were found for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Conclusions: These data - the first from a working population in Ukraine - add to evidence from several previous reports of excess leukemia morbidity in groups exposed environmentally or occupationally to petroleum or its products.

Keywords: Benzene; Chornobyl cleanup workers; Leukemia; Petroleum; Ukraine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Benzene / toxicity
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Hazardous Substances / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / epidemiology
  • Leukemia / etiology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure* / analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Petroleum / toxicity
  • Radiation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Radiation Exposure / analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Ukraine / epidemiology


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Petroleum
  • Benzene