Residential magnetic fields, light-at-night, and nocturnal urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin concentration in women

Am J Epidemiol. 2001 Oct 1;154(7):591-600. doi: 10.1093/aje/154.7.591.


Exposure to 60-Hz magnetic fields may increase breast cancer risk by suppressing the normal nocturnal rise in melatonin. This 1994-1996 Washington State study investigated whether such exposure was associated with lower nocturnal urinary concentration of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in 203 women aged 20-74 years with no history of breast cancer. Each woman was interviewed and provided data on the following for a 72-hour period at two different seasons of the year: 1) magnetic field and ambient light measured every 30 seconds in her bedroom, 2) personal magnetic field measured at 30-second intervals, and 3) complete nighttime urine samples on three consecutive nights. Lower nocturnal urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin level was associated with more hours of daylight, older age, higher body mass index, current alcohol consumption, and current use of medications classified as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, or psychotropics. After adjustment for these factors, higher bedroom magnetic field level was associated with significantly lower urinary concentration of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin during the same night, primarily in women who used these medications and during times of the year with the fewest hours of darkness. These results suggest that exposure to nighttime residential 60-Hz magnetic fields can depress the normal nocturnal rise in melatonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lighting*
  • Magnetics*
  • Melatonin / analogs & derivatives
  • Melatonin / urine*
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Smoking


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • 6-sulfatoxymelatonin
  • Melatonin