Objectives: Public health concern about the health effects of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) has increased with the increase in public exposure. This study was to evaluate some health effect of RF exposure by the AM radio broadcasting towers in Korea.
Methods: We calculated cancer mortality rates using Korean death certificates over the period of 1994-1995 and population census data in ten RF-exposed areas, defined as regions that included AM radio broadcasting towers of over 100 kW, and in control areas, defined as regions without a radio broadcasting tower inside and at least 2 km away from the towers.
Results: All cancers-mortality was significantly higher in the exposed areas [direct standardized mortality rate ratio (MRR) = 1.29, 95%CI = 1.12-1.49]. When grouped by each exposed area and by electrical power, MRRs for two sites of 100 kW, one site of 250 kW and one site of 500 kW, for all subjects, and for one site of 100 kW and two sites of 250 kW, for male subjects, showed statistically significant increases without increasing trends according to the groups of electric power. Leukemia mortality was higher in exposed areas (MRR = 1.70, 95% CI = 0.84-3.45), especially among young adults aged under 30 years (0-14 years age group, MRR = 2.29, 95% CI = 1.05-5.98; 15-29 age group, MRR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.07-5.24).
Conclusions: We observed higher mortality rates for all cancers and leukemia in some age groups in the area near the AM radio broadcasting towers. Although these findings do not prove a causal link between cancer and RF exposure from AM radio broadcasting towers, it does suggest that further analytical studies on this topic are needed in Korea.