Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) diagnosis: Were you exposed to benzene?

A cancer diagnosis is perhaps one of the most devastating events a person can face. Amid the many questions is sure to be, “How did this happen? Why did I get cancer?” For patients diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) or Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), the answer might be benzene exposure.

Exposure to toxic chemicals, including benzene, is a risk factor for the development of MDS and AML. According to the MDS Foundation, “Long term exposure to certain environmental or industrial chemicals, such as benzene, can also trigger MDS.”

Chemical exposure is also listed as a risk factor for the development of AML by the American Cancer Society (ACS). A report from the ACS states: “long-term exposure to high levels of benzene is a risk factor for AML. Benzene is a solvent used in the rubber industry, petroleum industry, chemical plants, shoe manufacturing, and gasoline-related industries, and is also found in cigarette smoke, gasoline, and motor vehicle exhaust, and some glues, cleaning products, detergents, art supplies, and paints.”

Attorney John Tomlinson, during his time with Beasley Allen Law Firm, worked with clients suffering from MDS or AML as the result of chronic exposure to toxins like benzene. According to John, most people don’t immediately draw a connection between their cancer diagnosis and the toxic exposure.

“Unfortunately, in a number of cases I investigate, the victim or the family of the deceased victim wait too long after the date of diagnosis or date of death to contact us about a potential connection between benzene and AML,” Tomlinson says. “After a certain period of time, their right to bring a legal action in court is time-barred.”

According to the MDS Foundation, MDS is a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which the  marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. MDS is primarily a disease of the elderly (most patients are older than age 65), but MDS can affect younger patients as well. For roughly 30 percent of the patients diagnosed with MDS, this type of bone marrow failure syndrome will progress to AML.

The National Cancer Institute describes AML as a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell), red blood cells, or platelets. Leukemia may affect red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. There are different subtypes of AML.

In the early stages of MDS, patients may not have any symptoms, but blood tests may reveal a reduced red cell count, sometimes with a reduced white cell count and/or reduced platelet counts. Signs and symptoms of adult AML include fever, feeling tired, and easy bruising or bleeding. Tests on the blood and bone marrow are used to diagnose AML.

After a diagnosis of MDS or AML, it is important to talk to a lawyer. Benzene exposure may be the cause, and you may have a claim. Due to certain statutes of limitations for bringing a claim of this nature, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Please visit our Benzene page as well as our Benzene in Sunscreen page for additional information.

Sources:
MDS Foundation
American Cancer Society
NIH National Cancer Institute

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