Occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields and risk of Alzheimer disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Neurotoxicology. 2018 Dec;69:242-252. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2017.12.005. Epub 2017 Dec 24.


Introduction: Occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) occurs in many occupations such as welders, electric utility workers, train drivers and sewing machine operators. There is some evidence suggesting ELF-MF exposure to be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). The current study aims at systematically reviewing the literature and conducting a meta-analysis to evaluate the risk of AD amongst workers exposed to ELF-MF.

Methods: Bibliographic databases were searched including PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and Web of Science in November 2017. Risk of bias was assessed in the all included studies. Pooled estimates were obtained using random-effects meta-analysis. In addition, sources of heterogeneity between studies and publication bias were explored.

Results: In total, 20 articles met the inclusion criteria. The pooled results suggest an increased risk of AD (RR: 1.63; 95% CI: 1.35, 1.96). Higher risk estimates were obtained from case-control studies (OR: 1.80; 95% CI: 1.40, 2.32) than from cohort studies (RR: 1.42; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.87). A moderate to high heterogeneity (I2 = 61.0%) and indication for publication bias (Egger test: p < 0.001) were found.

Conclusion: The results suggested that occupational exposure to ELF-MF might increase the risk of AD. However, this suggestion should be interpreted with caution given the moderate to high heterogeneity and indication for publication bias.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Magnetic fields; Meta-analysis; Occupational exposure; Systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors