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Correlation Between Proximity to Benzene Release Sites and Cancer? New Study Explores Connection

A recent study has determined that living near a benzene release site puts people at a higher risk for contracting non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Any refinery or plant that releases benzene into the air or water supply puts surrounding inhabitants in harm’s way.

Currently the risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are not well known, although research has shown that the disease is more common in older individuals. Approximately 70,000 new cases appear in the U.S. every year and nearly 20,000 deaths occur annually. Incidences of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are expected to increase as the population in the U.S. ages.

According to Dr. Christopher Flowers, more common cancers like breast, lung or colon cancer, has well known associations and risk factors. Unfortunately lymphomas are not nearly as well described. It is becoming more and more important to identify those risk factors related to lymphomas as the population ages.

In a study published in the journal Cancer, Dr. Flowers and his associates collected data on benzene release sites in Georgia from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory and compared it to date on incidences of lymphoma gathered from the Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry.

It has been common knowledge for researchers that workers exposed to elevated level of benzene often develop adverse health effect. In addition, in vitro studies of the chemical have demonstrated that the chemical is a known carcinogen. However this recent study is the first of its kind to analyze the effects of benzene on populations outside those who work closely with the chemical. This study investigated the distance and clustering of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma around sites of benzene exposure.

The data revealed that incidences of non-Hodgkin lymphoma were significantly greater than expected surrounding benzene release sites. The data also depicted that the risk of contracting the disease decreased by .31 percent as the distance from the site increased by a mile.

Dr. Flowers told Fox News that he can’t say directly that benzene is causing the cancer, but “the residential proximity to the sites are associated with higher incidences of cancer.”

More research needs to be done to better understand lymphomas and their risk factors.