Aims: To test the hypothesis that exposure to electromagnetic fields from high voltage power lines increases the incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma in adults aged 16 and above.
Methods: Nested case-control study. The study population comprised subjects aged 16 and above who had lived in a residence situated in a broad corridor around a high voltage power line in 1980, or one of the years from 1986 to 1996. The cases were incident cases that were diagnosed in 1980-96 and reported to the Cancer Registry of Norway. Two controls were matched to each case by year of birth, sex, municipality, and first year entering the cohort. Time weighted average exposure to residential magnetic fields generated by the power lines was calculated for the exposure follow up from 1 January 1967 until diagnosis by means of a computer program, in which distance from residency to the line, line configuration, and current load were taken into account. Exposure was analysed using cut off points at 0.05 and 0.2 microtesla ( microT). Exposure to magnetic fields at work was classified by an expert panel who assessed magnetic field exposure by combining branch and occupation into one of three levels: <4 hours, 4-24 hours, and >24 hours per week above background (0.1 micro T). The categories were cumulated over the occupationally active years for the exposure follow up from 1 January 1955 until diagnosis, and cut off points at 18 and 31 category-years were evaluated.
Results: Analysis of the two upper residential magnetic field categories showed an odds ratio of 2.01 (95% CI 1.09 to 3.69) and 2.68 (95% CI 1.43 to 5.04) for women, and an odds ratio of 1.70 (95% CI 0.96 to 3.01) and 1.37 (95% CI 0.77 to 2.44) for men, respectively. Occupational exposure showed no significant association with cutaneous malignant melanoma, and analysis of both residential and occupational exposure simultaneously, showed no additional effect.
Conclusion: The present study provides some support for an association between exposure to calculated residential magnetic fields and cutaneous malignant melanoma, but because of the lack of a biological hypothesis and the known strong association between solar radiation and melanoma, no firm conclusions can be drawn and further studies would be of interest.