Chemical exposures and risk of acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes in a population-based study

Jenny N. Poynter, Michaela Richardson, Michelle Roesler, Cindy K. Blair, Betsy Hirsch, Phuong Nguyen, Adina Cioc, James R. Cerhan, Erica Warlick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Benzene exposure is one of the few well-established risk factors for myeloid malignancy. Exposure to other chemicals has been inconsistently associated with hematologic malignancies. We evaluated occupational and residential chemical exposures as risk factors for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) using population-based data. AML and MDS cases were identified by the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System. Controls were identified through the Minnesota driver's license/identification card list. Chemical exposures were measured by self-report. Unconditional logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). We included 265 MDS cases, 420 AML cases and 1388 controls. We observed significant associations between both MDS and AML and benzene (OR = 1.77, 95% CI 1.19, 2.63 and OR = 2.10, 95% CI 1.35, 3.28, respectively) and vinyl chlorides (OR = 2.05, 95% CI 1.15, 3.63 and OR = 2.81, 95% CI 1.14, 6.92). Exposure to soot, creosote, inks, dyes and tanning solutions and coal dust were associated with AML (range ORs = 2.68–4.03), while no association was seen between these exposures and MDS (range ORs = 0.57–1.68). Pesticides and agricultural chemicals were not significantly associated with AML or MDS. Similar results were observed in analyses stratified by sex. In addition to providing risk estimates for benzene from a population-based sample, we also identified a number of other occupational and residential chemicals that were significantly associated with AML; however, all exposures were reported by only a small percentage of cases (≤10%). While chemical exposures play a clear role in the etiology of myeloid malignancy, these exposures do not account for the majority of cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • benzene
  • case-control study
  • chemical exposures
  • myelodysplastic syndromes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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