Brain tumor mortality risk among men with electrical and electronics jobs: a case-control study

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1987 Aug;79(2):233-8.


Brain tumor risk associated with electrical and electronics jobs and with occupational exposure to microwave and radiofrequency (MW/RF) electromagnetic radiation was evaluated with the use of data from a death certificate-based case-control study of brain tumors and occupational risk factors in northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA, and southern Louisiana. Next-of-kin of 435 white men who died of a primary brain tumor and of 386 controls who died from other causes were interviewed to obtain information on lifetime occupational history and other factors that might be related to excess brain tumor risk. The relative risk (RR) for all brain tumors was elevated among men exposed to MW/RF radiation [RR = 1.6; 95% confidence interval (Cl) = 1.0, 2.4] and was significantly elevated among men exposed for 20 or more years. All of the excess risk for MW/RF radiation-exposed subjects was derived from jobs that involved the design, manufacture, repair, or installation of electrical or electronic equipment (RR = 2.3; 95% Cl = 1.3, 4.2), while risk of brain tumors among MW/RF radiation-exposed subjects who never worked in electrical or electronics jobs was not elevated (RR = 1.0; 95% Cl = 0.5, 1.9). Furthermore, risk was elevated for electronics workers who were considered to have no exposure to MW/RF radiation. Among electrical and electronics workers, risk was highest for engineers, teachers, technicians, repairers, and assemblers combined (RR = 3.9; 95% Cl = 1.6, 9.9) and was limited to excess risk from astrocytic tumors (RR = 4.6; 95% Cl = 1.9, 12.2). Risk of astrocytic tumors among these electronics manufacture and repair workers increased with duration of exposure to tenfold among those employed for 20 or more years. Among electricians and power and telephone linemen combined (electrical tradesmen), the RR for astrocytic tumors was slightly elevated, but not statistically significant (RR = 1.8), and showed no consistent evidence of a duration-response relationship. Electrical tradesmen are exposed to extremely low frequency electromagnetic radiation, while men in some jobs associated with electronics manufacture and repair are exposed to electromagnetic radiation in the very high frequency and ultra-high frequency ranges and also may be exposed to soldering fumes, solvents, and a variety of other chemicals.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma / etiology
  • Astrocytoma / mortality*
  • Brain Neoplasms / etiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Electricity
  • Electronics
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupations
  • Risk
  • Time Factors
  • United States