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Work-related leukemia: a systematic review

Ioannis Polychronakis1*, George Dounias2, Vasilios Makropoulos2, Elena Riza1 and Athena Linos1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, University of Athens, Medical School, 75 Mikras Asias 115 27, Goudi, Athens, Greece

2 Occupational & Industrial Hygiene Department, National School of Public Health, 96 Alexandras Av. 11521, Athens, Greece

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2013, 8:14  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-8-14

Published: 22 May 2013


Leukemia is a complex disease, which only became better understood during the last decades following the development of new laboratory techniques and diagnostic methods. Despite our improved understanding of the physiology of the disease, little is yet known about the causes of leukemia. A variety of potential risk factors have been suggested so far, including personal habits and lifestyle, and a wide range of occupational or environmental exposures. A causal association with leukemia has only been documented to date for ionizing radiation, benzene and treatment with cytostatic drugs, but there is an ongoing scientific debate on the possible association of leukemia with a number of other work-related hazards. In this article, we have reviewed scientific studies, published over the past 5 years, which investigated potential associations between leukemia and exposure to occupational risk factors. The systematic literature review took place via electronic databases, using specific search criteria, and independent reviewers have further filtered the search results to identify the number of articles, presented in our paper. A large number of studies included in the review referred to the effects of ionizing radiation, where new data suggest that the effects of exposure to small doses of ionizing radiation should probably be reevaluated. Some other works appear to substantiate a potential association of the disease with certain pesticides. Further research is also suggested regarding the role of infectious agents or exposure to certain chemicals like formaldehyde or butadiene in the pathogenesis of leukemia.

Leukemia; Exposure; Occupation; Worker; Work-related; Hazard; Risk-factor