Electromagnetic fields and the induction of DNA strand breaks

Electromagn Biol Med. 2009;28(2):201-14. doi: 10.1080/15368370802608696.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified the extremely low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) as "possible carcinogenic" based on the reported effects. The purpose of this work is to review and compare the recent findings related to the induction of DNA strand breaks (DNA-SB) by magnetic field (MF) exposure. We found 29 studies (genotoxic and epigenetic) about the induction of DNA-SB by MF. 50% showed effect of MF and 50% showed no DNA-SB. Nevertheless, considering only genotoxic or only epigenetic studies, 37.5% and 69.2% found induction of DNA-SB by MF, respectively. In relation to these data it seems that MF could act as a co-inductor of DNA damage rather than as a genotoxic agent per se. Nevertheless, the published results, in some cases conflicting with negative findings, do not facilitate to obtain a common consensus about MF effects and biophysical interaction mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Breaks / radiation effects*
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Mutation / radiation effects