Professional painters may face an increased risk for bladder cancer, and that risk seems to rise with the number of years they work, a new study suggests.
Researchers analysed nearly 3 000 cases of bladder cancer in professional painters that were reported in 41 previous studies. Some of those studies also classified plasterers, glaziers, wallpaper hangers, artists and decorators as painters.
After taking into account smoking (a key risk factor for bladder cancer), the review authors concluded that painters were 30% more likely to develop bladder cancer than the general population.
While there was some evidence that female painters were more likely to develop bladder cancer than male painters, only four of the studies included separate results for women.
The number of years a person worked as a painter had a significant effect on bladder cancer risk. People who worked as a painter for more than 10 years were more likely to develop the disease than those who'd been painters for less than 10 years, according to the report published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
It's not known which chemicals in paint increase the risk of bladder cancer and the link between being a painter and bladder cancer is complicated by work variability, differing levels of exposure and changes to the composition of paint over time, the researchers noted. Painters are exposed to some of the same chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke, including aromatic amines, they added.
There is now sufficient evidence that painters are at increased risk, Neela Guha of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and colleagues concluded.
"Because several million people are employed as painters worldwide, even a modest increase in the relative risk is remarkable," the researchers wrote in their report. (July 2010)
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