Hematotoxicity and carcinogenicity of benzene

Environ Health Perspect. 1989 Jul;82:193-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8982193.


The hematotoxicity of benzene exposure has been well known for a century. Benzene causes leukocytopenia, thrombocytopenia, pancytopenia, etc. The clinical and hematologic picture of aplastic anemia resulting from benzene exposure is not different from classical aplastic anemia; in some cases, mild bilirubinemia, changes in osmotic fragility, increase in lactic dehydrogenase and fecal urobilinogen, and occasionally some neurological abnormalities are found. Electromicroscopic findings in some cases of aplastic anemia with benzene exposure were similar to those observed by light microscopy. Benzene hepatitis-aplastic anemia syndrome was observed in a technician with benzene exposure. Ten months after occurrence of hepatitis B, a severe aplastic anemia developed. The first epidemiologic study proving the leukemogenicity of benzene was performed between 1967 and 1973 to 1974 among shoe workers in Istanbul. The incidence of leukemia was 13.59 per 100,000, which is a significant increase over that of leukemia in the general population. Following the prohibition and discontinuation of the use of benzene in Istanbul, there was a striking decrease in the number of leukemic shoe workers in Istanbul. In 23.7% of our series, consisting of 59 leukemic patients with benzene exposure, there was a preceding pancytopenic period. Furthermore, a familial connection was found in 10.2% of them. The 89.8% of our series showed the findings of acute leukemia. The possible factors that may determine the types of leukemia in benzene toxicity are discussed. The possible role of benzene exposure is presented in the development of malignant lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Aplastic / chemically induced
  • Benzene / adverse effects*
  • Hematologic Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Pancytopenia / chemically induced


  • Benzene