Occupational illnesses Workplace exposures

Study links solvent exposure, breast cancer risk

Philadelphia – Women who work with organic solvents before their first full-term birth may be at an increased risk for breast cancer, concludes a study from the epidemiology branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The study, which analyzed data from more than 47,000 women with a family history of breast cancer, tracked participants’ employment histories and potential risk factors for breast cancer. The women also answered questionnaires about the frequency and duration of solvent exposure on the job, as well as their age when they started working with solvents.

Women who worked with organic solvents before their first full-term birth had a 40 percent increased risk for developing hormone receptor-positive invasive breast cancer. Occupations in which the risk was greatest include clinical laboratory technicians, factory workers, maids and house cleaners, researchers said. Women who worked in clinical laboratories were twice as likely to develop the cancer.

The findings underscore the need for women to be familiar with chemicals and hazards on the job, to use personal protective equipment, and to minimize exposures as much as possible, the study authors said.

The study was published June 1 in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.