Effects of 50- or 60-hertz, 100 microT magnetic field exposure in the DMBA mammary cancer model in Sprague-Dawley rats: possible explanations for different results from two laboratories

Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Sep;108(9):797-802. doi: 10.1289/ehp.00108797.


In line with the possible relationship between electric power and breast cancer risk and the underlying melatonin hypothesis, 50-Hz magnetic field (MF) exposure at microtesla flux densities for either 13 or 27 weeks significantly increased the development and growth of mammary tumors in a series of experiments from Löscher's group in Germany. Löscher's group used the 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) model of breast cancer in Sprague-Dawley rats. The finding could not be replicated when a similar experimental protocol was used in a study conducted by Battelle in the United States. In the present paper, investigators from the two groups discuss differences between their studies that might explain the apparent discrepancies between the results. These differences include the use of different substrains of Sprague-Dawley rats (the U.S. rats were more susceptible to DMBA than the European rats), different sources for diet and DMBA, differences in environmental conditions, and differences in MF exposure metrics. Furthermore, the effects of MF exposure reported by Löscher's group, albeit significant, were weak. We also discuss the general problem of replicating such weak effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design