Purpose: To investigate the association between exposure to occupational extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) and the risk of a priori selected cancer outcomes within the prospective Netherlands Cohort Study.
Methods: 120,852 men and women aged 55-69 years at time of enrollment in 1986 were followed up (17.3 years) for incident lung, breast and brain cancer, and hemato-lymphoproliferative malignancies. Information on occupational history and potential confounders such as sex, age, smoking, alcohol use, and attained educational level were collected at baseline through a self-administered questionnaire. Occupational ELF-MF exposure was assigned with a job-exposure matrix. Using a case-cohort approach, associations with cancer incidence were analyzed with Cox regression stratified by sex, using three exposure metrics: (1) ever had a job with low or high exposure to ELF-MF versus background, (2) duration of exposure, and (3) cumulative exposure.
Results: None of the exposure metrics showed an effect on incidence for lung, breast, and brain cancer, nor any of the assessed subtypes in men and women. Of the hemato-lymphoproliferative malignancies in men, ever high exposed to ELF-MF showed a significant association with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) [hazard ratio (HR) 2.15; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.06-4.35] and follicular lymphoma (FL) (HR 2.78; 95 % CI 1.00-5.77). Cumulative exposure to ELF-MF showed a significant, positive association with FL but not AML among men.
Conclusions: In this large prospective cohort study, we found some indications of an increased risk of AML and FL among men with occupational ELF-MF exposure. These findings warrant further investigation.