Exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and the risk of childhood cancer: update of the epidemiological evidence

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2011 Dec;107(3):339-42. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2011.09.008. Epub 2011 Sep 19.


There is an ongoing scientific controversy whether the observed association between exposure to residential extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) and the risk of childhood leukaemia observed in epidemiological studies is causal or due to methodological shortcomings of those studies. Recent pooled analysis confirm results from previous studies, namely an approximately two-fold risk increase at ELF-MF exposures ≥0.4 μT, and demonstrate consistency of studies across countries, with different design, different methods of exposure assessment, and different systems of power transmission and distribution. On the other hand, recent pooled analyses for childhood brain tumour show little evidence for an association with ELF-MF, also at exposures ≥0.4 μT. Overall, the assessment that ELF-MF are a possible carcinogen and may cause childhood leukaemia remains valid. Ongoing research activities, mainly experimental and few new epidemiological studies, hopefully provide additional insight to bring clarity to a research area that has remained inconclusive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / etiology
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / epidemiology
  • Leukemia / etiology
  • Magnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk