Cell-type-specific leukemia analyses in a combined cohort of more than 208,000 petroleum workers in the United States and the United Kingdom, 1937-1989

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1995 Apr;21(2):307-21. doi: 10.1006/rtph.1995.1044.


A large number of epidemiologic studies of workers in the petroleum industry have been conducted to investigate the carcinogenic and other health effects of exposure to petroleum products during manufacture and distribution. Of particular interest is the relationship between exposure to benzene or benzene-containing liquids in the petroleum industry and leukemia risk. However, few studies have investigated cell-type-specific leukemia risk. In the present investigation, all cohort studies of petroleum workers in the United States and the United Kingdom were combined into a single database for cell-type-specific leukemia analysis. The majority of these workers were petroleum refinery employees, but production, pipeline, and distribution workers in the petroleum industry were also included. The combined cohort consisted of 208,741 petroleum workers. Between 1937 and 1989, these workers contributed a total of 4,665,361 person-years of observation. More than 56 thousand deaths were reported among these workers during the 53 years of observation. Cell-type-specific leukemia risks were calculated using a meta-analysis procedure appropriate for combining occupational cohort studies. These risks were expressed in terms of cell-type-specific leukemia standardized mortality ratios (meta-SMRs). The meta-SMR for acute myelogenous leukemia was 0.96. The lack of an increase of acute myelogenous leukemia was attributed to the low levels of benzene exposure in the petroleum industry, particularly in comparison to benzene exposure levels in some previous studies of workers in other industries, who had been found to experience increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia. Similarly, no increase in chronic myelogenous, acute lymphocytic, or chronic lymphocytic leukemias was found in petroleum workers (meta-SMRs of 0.89, 1.16, and 0.84, respectively). Meta-analyses restricted to refinery studies or to studies with at least 15 years of follow-up yielded similar results. The findings of the present investigation are consistent with those from several recent case-control studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Benzene / adverse effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Leukemia / chemically induced*
  • Leukemia / mortality
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Petroleum / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United Kingdom
  • United States


  • Petroleum
  • Benzene