Study finds painters are 30% more likely to develop cancer of bladder


PAINTERS ARE at significantly increased risk of developing bladder cancer and the danger increases the longer a person works in the trade, a new study has found.

The research, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is based on almost 3,000 cases of the disease in professional painters reported in 41 separate studies.

The study found that plasterers, glaziers, wallpaper hangers, artists and decorators were exposed to the same risk.

Author of the study, Dr Neela Guha, said the risk arises not solely from exposure to paint but to factors that can occur in the environment in which painters work, such as the stripping of old paintwork, sanding or exposure to asbestos.

The study also found that those who had worked in such roles for more than 10 years were more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who had been doing so for less than that time.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has estimated that bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer worldwide and accounts for 130,000 deaths annually.

While smoking is a key risk, the authors of the study found that after taking tobacco use into account, painters were still 30 per cent more likely to develop bladder cancer than the general population.

The findings are the result of bladder cancer studies carried out from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Dr Guha said that while harmful chemicals like benzene and lead had been reduced or removed from paints in developed countries, it was too soon to say whether new, “greener” paints would reduce the risk of bladder cancer as the disease takes between 10 and 50 years to develop.

Dr Guha advised those working in high-risk environments to wear gloves and keep skin covered, to wear a mask or respirator, not to eat in the area and to ensure the buildings were well ventilated.