Bladder cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer in the U.S. While smoking is a major risk factor for the disease, exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace is considered another.

With this in mind, a new study has found that painters are at a higher risk for contracting bladder cancer, mainly due to their continual exposure to chemicals in the paints that they work with, especially aromatic amines, which are also present in cigarette smoke.

The current findings, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, indicate that the risk for the cancer increases with the length of time that a person works as a painter, which would consequently increase their level of exposure to the chemicals in question. Other related jobs that were also classified as "painters," presumably because they entailed a similar degree of exposure, included glaziers, artists, decorators, and plasterers.

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers examined nearly 3000 cases of bladder cancer in professional painters that were covered in 41 individual studies. Since smoking is an important risk factor, the authors of the study sought to consider that issue in their analysis. After taking that into account, they found that painters were still at a 30 percent higher risk for developing bladder cancer than the general population, suggesting that painting is an independent risk factor for the disease.

The data is further supported by the fact that the risk for developing cancer was significantly affected by the amount of time that a person was employed as a painter. In fact, those people who had worked as painters for 10 years or more are more likely to have the condition than those who had worked for under 10 years.

It is difficult at this time to draw conclusions from the data because it is not known which compounds in paint are responsible for the increased risk, nor is it clear how levels of exposure can be measured and defined. Variations in a person's workload as well as the fact that paint composition has changed over the years further cloud the picture.

The current findings, however, are sufficient grounds to suggest that people who paint for a living run an occupational risk for the disease.

With more than 330,000 new cases each year, bladder cancer is the 9th most common cancer in the world, and claims upwards of 130,000 lives annually.

If you have questions or concerns, speak with your physician. For more information about bladder cancer, visit the website for the National Cancer Institute.