A brush with cancer

Housepaints can increase bladder cancer rate

By Smriti Sharma
Published: Tuesday 31 August 2010

imagePAINTERS and those working in the construction industry are at a risk of developing bladder cancer, according to a report that reviewed the case studies of 3,000 painters with bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer is the ninth most common form of cancer that claims 130,000 lives a year worldwide, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon in France. IARC researchers based their evaluation on the finding that painters are exposed to certain chemicals, including aromatic amines, that are also found in cigarette smoke. They studied the smoking habits and found painters who smoke were 30 per cent more likely to develop bladder cancer than the ones who do not.

The risk, however, continued to persist even after the patients' smoking history is controlled, suggesting that painting or occupational exposure is an independent risk for the disease, lead author Neela Guha reported in the August issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.The analysis shows risk of bladder cancer increases with longer employment as a painter.

The risk is more in developing countries. Although damaging chemicals such as lead have been removed from paints in developed countries, they are still present in paints in the developing world. "Nearly 40 per cent of bladder cancer patients we receive have been exposed to aromatic amines in paints, leather dust and textiles," said oncologist Rajni Mutneja at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute in New Delhi.

Guha's study does not implicate specific chemicals. "Painters get exposed to a mixture of chemicals. Chemical composition of paints also keep changing, so it is difficult to identify the particular agents," said Guha. To reduce the risk those working in high-risk areas should wear gloves, keep skin covered and keep the workplace well ventilated.

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