Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of unknown etiology. Mobile communication antennas have increased over the last few decades. Consequently, there has been a steady increase in environmental exposure to ultra high frequency electromagnetic fields (UHF-EMFs) emitted by Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication antennas, which raises concerns about possible health risks in the general population. We aimed to evaluate the relationship between residential exposure to UHF-EMFs generated by GSM antennas and the risk of ALS in general population. A geo-epidemiological population-based study was performed in Limousin (France). ALS incident cases were identified through a register (FRALim, 2000-2012 period). A model to estimate UHF-EMF exposure was developed based on the distance and the power of GSM antennas. Exposure to multiple emissions from multiple directions was considered. A non-cumulative and a cumulative model were established. A geographic information system integrated the raster model of exposure, and the residential distribution of observed and expected cases. A generalized linear model was performed to test the association. Overall, 312 ALS cases were included. We estimated exposures below 1.72 V/m in urban areas and below 1.23 V/m in rural areas for 90% of the population. A gradient effect between UHF-EMF exposure and ALS incidence was apparent with a statistically significant trend. A significant increased risk of ALS was observed between the non-exposure category and the highest exposure category, with a relative risk of 1.78 (95% CI: 1.28-2.48) in the non-cumulative model and 1.83 (95% CI: 1.32-2.54) in the cumulative model. Our results suggest a possible association between residential UHF-EMF exposure and ALS. Ecological studies are a means of generating hypotheses. Further studies are needed to clarify the potential role of EMFs on neurodegeneration.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Global system for mobile (GSM) antennas; Population-based study; Risk; Ultra-high frequency electromagnetic fields.
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