Occupational extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) exposure and hematolymphopoietic cancers – Swiss National Cohort analysis and updated meta-analysis

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Abstract

Purpose:

Previous studies have examined risks of leukaemia and selected lymphoid malignancies in workers exposed to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF). Most studies evaluated hematolymphopoietic malignancies as a combined category, but some analyses suggested that effects may be contained to some specific leukaemia or lymphoma subtypes, with inconsistent results.

Methods:

We examined exposure to ELF-MF and mortality 1990–2008 from different types of hematolymphopoietic cancers in the Swiss National Cohort, using a job exposure matrix for occupations recorded at censuses 1990 and 2000. We analysed 3.1 million workers exposed at different levels to ELF-MF: ever-high, only-medium, only-low exposure using Cox proportional hazard models. We evaluated risk of death from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukaemia, lymphoid leukaemia, diffuse large B-cell lymphomas, follicular lymphoma, Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, multiple myeloma and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Results:

Mortality from hematolymphopoietic cancers was not associated with exposure to ELF-MF with the exception of an increase in ever-high exposed men of myeloid leukaemias (HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.02–1.67), and AML (HR 1.26, 95%CI 0.93–1.70). If workers had been high exposed during their vocational training and at both censuses, these HR increased to 2.24 (95%CI 0.91–5.53) and 2.75 (95%CI 1.11–6.83), respectively.

Conclusions:

Our analysis provided no convincing evidence for an increased risk of death from a range of hematolymphopoietic cancers in workers exposed to high or medium levels of ELF magnetic fields. However, we observed an increased risk of acute myeloid leukaemia in workers exposed to high levels for a longer duration. Observed risks are in line with meta-analysed previous reports on ELF-MF exposure and AML risk, with a summary relative risk of 1.21 (95%CI 1.08–1.37).

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