Paternal occupational exposure to electro-magnetic fields as a risk factor for cancer in children and young adults: a case-control study from the North of England

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2007 Sep;49(3):280-6. doi: 10.1002/pbc.21021.


Background: Numerous studies have implied that paternal occupational exposures, in particular electromagnetic fields (EMF) and ionizing radiation, may be involved in the etiology of childhood cancers. We investigated whether an association exists between paternal occupations at birth involving such exposures and cancer risk in offspring, using data from the Northern Region Young Persons' Malignant Disease Registry (NRYPMDR).

Procedure: Cases (n=4,723) were matched, on sex and year of birth, to controls from two independent sources: (i) all other patients from the NRYPMDR with a different cancer, (ii) 100 cancer-free individuals per case from the Cumbrian Births Database. An occupational exposure matrix was used to assign individuals to exposure groups.

Results: There was an increased risk of leukemia among the offspring of men employed in occupations likely to be associated with EMF or radiation exposures (OR 1.31, 95% CI 1.02-1.69), particularly in males aged less than 6 years (OR 1.81, 95% 1.19-2.75). No significant association was seen in females. Increased risks were also seen for chondrosarcoma (OR 8.7, 95% CI 1.55-49.4) and renal carcinoma (OR 6.75, 95% CI 1.73-26.0). These associations were consistent between control groups and remained after adjustment for socio-economic status.

Conclusions: This large case-control study identified a significantly increased risk of leukemia among the offspring of men likely to have been occupationally exposed to EMF, with differing associations between males and females. Increased risks of chondrosarcoma and renal carcinoma were also seen, although based on smaller numbers. Further detailed investigations in this area are required to understand this association.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupations
  • Paternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution