Public Release: 

No increased risk of brain cancer from electromagnetic fields

BMJ Specialty Journals

Exposure to electromagnetic fields does not increase the risk of developing a brain tumour, finds a study of electricity industry workers, reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers from the Institute of Occupational Health at the University of Birmingham assessed causes of death among just under 84,000 workers employed in generating or transmitting electricity in England and Wales. The period of study ran from 1973 until 1997.

The researchers used new techniques to assess levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields, and to calculate cumulative lifetime exposure and that received for the last five years of the study.

Death rates for brain cancer and for all causes among industry workers were compared with national death statistics to see if there was any excess risk.

The results showed that death rates from brain cancer were very close to those that would have been expected for the general population. And there was no increased risk of death as a result of lifetime exposure or within the most recent five years.

Interestingly, the most recent exposure seemed to protect against death from all other causes. But socioeconomic factors were important for increasing the risk of premature death.

The authors conclude that there is no discernible increased risk of death from brain cancer among workers in the electricity industry.

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[Occupational exposure to magnetic fields relative to mortality from brain tumours: updated and revised findings from a study of United Kingdom electricity generation and transmission workers, 1973-97 2001;58:626-30]

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