Bladder cancer is the most common urological cancer and the seventh most common cancer in men. It has been common in the rubber industry for some time but is also seen amongst those working with aromatic amines, coal tars and pitch, diesel engine exhaust, metal working fluids and mineral oils.
The risk of contracting bladder cancer is strongly associated with work involving the use of aromatic amines, particularly benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, which were widespread in the manufacture of dyes and pigments for textiles, paints, plastics, hair dyes, pesticides and most notably in the rubber industry.
Production of beta-naphthylamine ceased in the UK in 1952 and in 1953 bladder cancer became, and still is, a prescribed industrial disease.
It has been estimated that, in the UK, around 7% of bladder cancer cases in men and 2% in women are linked to occupational exposure, working in occupations as diverse as a painter and decorator to a hairdresser. On top of that, around 4% of bladder cancer cases in European men are due to exposure to PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) which is a potent pollutant and carcinogen.
Dangerous chemicals have been used in the rubber industry. Beta-naphthylamine (in the form of a chemical called Nonox S) was used in rubber compounding until 1949 when it was withdrawn. Unfortunately workers in the rubber industry now also have to contend with an increased risk of developing lung cancers and stomach cancers as a result of fumes and dust created in the working environment.
The risk of stomach cancer appears to be related to rubber dust exposure and the lung cancers a result of exposure to vulcanising fumes.