Effects of the analytical treatment of exposure data on associations of cancer and occupational magnetic field exposure

Am J Ind Med. 1998 Jul;34(1):49-56. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199807)34:1<49::aid-ajim7>3.0.co;2-l.


Epidemiological studies of cancer among workers exposed to magnetic fields have yielded inconsistent results. This variability may be partly explained by differences in study methods. To assess sensitivity to such methods, data from a previous study of brain cancer and leukemia among electric power company workers were reanalyzed using alternative models, which incorporated uncertainty about the intensity of historical exposures, alternative cut points for categorizing the exposure variable for analysis, and a range of lags for describing cancer latency. Mortality rate ratios for leukemia ranged from 0.8-1.5. For brain cancer, increasing cumulative magnetic field exposure was associated with increasing mortality in virtually all models, with rate ratios between 1.3-3.4 for the most exposed workers. These rate ratios are consistent with previous analyses suggesting a 1.5-3.0-fold increase in the risk of brain cancer but no association with leukemia, and confirm that the previous results are not dependent on arbitrary decisions in applying the exposure data.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / mortality*
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States / epidemiology