Benzene, an experimental multipotential carcinogen: results of the long-term bioassays performed at the Bologna Institute of Oncology

Environ Health Perspect. 1989 Jul;82:109-24. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8982109.


In 1976, a systematic and integrated project of long-term carcinogenicity bioassays began at the Bentivoglio Experimental Unit of the Bologna Institute of Oncology. The Bologna experiments proved for the first time that benzene is an experimental carcinogen. These experiments demonstrated that benzene is carcinogenic when administered by ingestion and by inhalation and that it cause tumors in the various tested animal models (Sprague-Dawley rats, Wistar rats, Swiss mice, and RF/J mice). They also showed that benzene is a multipotential carcinogen, as it produces a variety of neoplasias in one or more of the tested animal models, including Zymbal gland carcinomas, carcinomas of the oral cavity, nasal cavities, skin, forestomach, and mammary glands, as well as angiosarcomas of the liver, hemolymphoreticular neoplasias, tumors of the lung, and possibly hepatomas. The Bologna experiments also indicated a clear-cut dose-response relationship in benzene carcinogenesis. This report presents the up-to-date results of the Bologna project. The need for more experimental research aimed at assessing the carcinogenic effects of low doses of benzene, of chemical mixtures containing benzene, and of benzene substitutes is emphasized. Also recommended are more comprehensive epidemiological investigations, extended to all types of malignancies, with particular regard to lung carcinomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Benzene / administration & dosage
  • Benzene / toxicity*
  • Carcinogens*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Carcinogens
  • Benzene