A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia

Br J Cancer. 2000 Sep;83(5):692-8. doi: 10.1054/bjoc.2000.1376.


Previous studies have suggested an association between exposure to 50-60 Hz magnetic fields (EMF) and childhood leukaemia. We conducted a pooled analysis based on individual records from nine studies, including the most recent ones. Studies with 24/48-hour magnetic field measurements or calculated magnetic fields were included. We specified which data analyses we planned to do and how to do them before we commenced the work. The use of individual records allowed us to use the same exposure definitions, and the large numbers of subjects enabled more precise estimation of risks at high exposure levels. For the 3203 children with leukaemia and 10 338 control children with estimated residential magnetic field exposures levels < 0.4 microT, we observed risk estimates near the no effect level, while for the 44 children with leukaemia and 62 control children with estimated residential magnetic field exposures >/= 0.4 microT the estimated summary relative risk was 2.00 (1.27-3.13), P value = 0.002). Adjustment for potential confounding variables did not appreciably change the results. For North American subjects whose residences were in the highest wire code category, the estimated summary relative risk was 1.24 (0.82-1.87). Thus, we found no evidence in the combined data for the existence of the so-called wire-code paradox. In summary, the 99.2% of children residing in homes with exposure levels < 0.4 microT had estimates compatible with no increased risk, while the 0.8% of children with exposures >/= 0.4 microT had a relative risk estimate of approximately 2, which is unlikely to be due to random variability. The explanation for the elevated risk is unknown, but selection bias may have accounted for some of the increase.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bias
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukemia / etiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk