Electromagnetic fields and DNA damage

Pathophysiology. 2009 Aug;16(2-3):79-88. doi: 10.1016/j.pathophys.2008.11.005. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


A major concern of the adverse effects of exposure to non-ionizing electromagnetic field (EMF) is cancer induction. Since the majority of cancers are initiated by damage to a cell's genome, studies have been carried out to investigate the effects of electromagnetic fields on DNA and chromosomal structure. Additionally, DNA damage can lead to changes in cellular functions and cell death. Single cell gel electrophoresis, also known as the 'comet assay', has been widely used in EMF research to determine DNA damage, reflected as single-strand breaks, double-strand breaks, and crosslinks. Studies have also been carried out to investigate chromosomal conformational changes and micronucleus formation in cells after exposure to EMF. This review describes the comet assay and its utility to qualitatively and quantitatively assess DNA damage, reviews studies that have investigated DNA strand breaks and other changes in DNA structure, and then discusses important lessons learned from our work in this area.