Exposure to 60 Hz magnetic fields (MFs) may be a risk factor for human cancer. One mechanism through which MFs could influence neoplastic development is through alterations in the expression of cancer-related genes. Previous molecular studies of the action of MFs have measured effects on a limited number of genes. In the present studies, arrays containing cDNAs for 588 cancer-related genes were used to approach the hypothesis that the biological activity of MFs is mediated by alterations in gene expression. Cultures of normal (HME) and transformed (HBL-100) human mammary epithelial cells and human promyelocytic leukemia (HL60) cells were exposed to MFs at field strengths of 0, 0.01 or 1.0 mT for 24 h. Several genes were identified in MF-exposed cells whose expression was increased by at least twofold or decreased by 50% or more. However, no gene was found to be differentially expressed in each of three independent exposures for any cell type, and no relationship between exposure intensity and differential gene expression was found. These studies failed to identify a plausible genetic target for the action of MFs in human cells, and they provide no support for the hypothesis that MF exposure alters the expression of genes that are involved in cancer development.