Aims: To analyze the relationship between exposure to chlorinated and aromatic organic solvents and malignant lymphoma in a multi-centre, population-based case-control study.
Methods: Male and female patients with malignant lymphoma (n=710) between 18 and 80 years of age were prospectively recruited in six study regions in Germany (Ludwigshafen /Upper Palatinate, Heidelberg/ Rhine-Neckar-County, Wurzburg/ Lower Frankonia, Hamburg, Bielefeld/ Gutersloh, and Munich). For each newly recruited lymphoma case, a gender, region and age-matched (+/- 1 year of birth) population control was drawn from the population registers. In a structured personal interview, we elicited a complete occupational history, including every occupational period that lasted at least one year. On the basis of job task-specific supplementary questionnaires, a trained occupational physician assessed the exposure to chlorinated hydrocarbons (trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, dichloromethane, carbon tetrachloride) and aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene, styrene). Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using conditional logistic regression analysis, adjusted for smoking (in pack years) and alcohol consumption. To increase the statistical power, patients with specific lymphoma subentities were additionally compared with the entire control group using unconditional logistic regression analysis.
Results: We observed a statistically significant association between high exposure to chlorinated hydrocarbons and malignant lymphoma (Odds ratio = 2.1; 95% confidence interval 1.1-4.3). In the analysis of lymphoma subentities, a pronounced risk elevation was found for follicular lymphoma and marginal zone lymphoma. When specific substances were considered, the association between trichloroethylene and malignant lymphoma was of borderline statistical significance. Aromatic hydrocarbons were not significantly associated with the lymphoma diagnosis.
Conclusions: In accordance with the literature, this data point to a potential etiologic role of chlorinated hydrocarbons (particularly trichloroethylene) and malignant lymphoma. Chlorinated hydrocarbons might affect specific lymphoma subentities differentially. Our study does not support a strong association between aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene, or styrene) and the diagnosis of a malignant lymphoma.