DOI: 10.3390/ijerph21020205 ISSN: 1660-4601

Benzene Exposure and Lung Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Human Studies

Manuela Chiavarini, Patrizia Rosignoli, Beatrice Sorbara, Irene Giacchetta, Roberto Fabiani
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Lung cancer is a leading cause of death with nearly 1.8 million deaths estimated worldwide in 2020. Although benzene is classified as a human carcinogen (Group 1) on the basis of its association with acute myeloid/non-lymphocytic leukaemia, there is still limited evidence that it may influence lung cancer risk. This study examined the potential link between benzene exposure and risk of lung cancer using a systematic review of epidemiological studies and meta-analysis. We searched through PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus databases up to 10 February 2023 to identify all articles on the association between benzene exposure and lung cancer (incidence or prevalence) and/or mortality. We extracted the risk estimates of the highest and the lowest reported categories of benzene exposure and conducted a meta-analysis using a random-effects model. Heterogeneity and publication bias were analysed using an I2 test and funnel plots asymmetry, respectively. Twenty-one studies were included in the final analysis, with a total of 10,750 lung cancer cases and 2899 lung cancer deaths. Overall, risk estimates of lung cancer prevalence and mortality in association with benzene exposure were 1.20 (n = 14; 95% CI 1.05–1.37) and 1.15 (n = 13; 95% CI 1.02–1.30), respectively. In all cases, heterogeneity was quite large, while no significant publication bias was observed. When only studies that adjusted for smoking habit were selected, the risk for lung cancer increased by up to 34% (n = 9; 95% CI 1.10–1.64). Our data, which show a strong association between benzene exposure and lung cancer risk, may have important public health implications. However, further studies are needed to identify the lung cancer risk associated with benzene exposure considering different smoking conditions.

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