Study supports view that painters face higher risk of bladder cancer

In collaboration with Adfero

A new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has provided further evidence that professional painters may face a higher risk of developing bladder cancer than the general population.

The research team carried out a meta-analysis of data contained in 41 separate studies, including almost 3,000 cases of bladder cancer among professional painters.

Painters are known to be at risk of exposure to some of the same chemicals in cigarette smoke, such as a group of cancer-causing compounds called aromatic amines.

Once participants' smoking status had been taken into account, the researchers found that painters were still 30 per cent more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-painters.

Four of the studies presented separate results for male versus female painters, suggesting that female painters may be more likely to develop bladder cancer than their male counterparts.

And the study also revealed that the longer a person had been a painter, the greater their risk of bladder cancer - with those who had been in the profession for more than ten years facing a higher risk of the disease than those who had been painting for less than ten years.

Writing in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the study authors concluded that their research "lends support to the IARC group one classification ... that occupation as a painter is carcinogenic to humans".

The researchers said that the exact chemicals that are to blame for painters' heightened risk of bladder cancer are not yet known.

They also noted that the definition of 'painter' had varied between studies, as had participants' levels of exposure and the composition of paint.

However, they insisted that they found sufficient evidence to support the conclusion "that occupational exposures in painters are causally associated with the risk of bladder cancer".

Jessica Harris, Cancer Research UK's health information officer, said: "Although the researchers found only a small increased risk of bladder cancer, many studies have found similar effects, and the results of this study back up the World Health Organisation's view that painters are at higher risk of cancer.

"It is important to follow health and safety rules at work, which are designed to protect workers from exposure to harmful substances. However, it's also important to remember that smoking is the single biggest risk factor for bladder cancer, causing about two-thirds of all cases of the disease."

References

  • Guha, N., Steenland, N., Merletti, F., Altieri, A., Cogliano, V., & Straif, K. (2010). Bladder cancer risk in painters: a meta-analysis Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 67 (8), 568-573 DOI: 10.1136/oem.2009.051565