Exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukemia:
a systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies

Christian Brabant, Anton Geerinck, Charlotte Beaudart, Ezio Tirelli, Christophe Geuzaine and Olivier Bruyère. Exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Reviews on Environmental Health. Published online Mar 15, 2022. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2021-0112.

The association between childhood leukemia and extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) generated by power lines and various electric appliances has been studied extensively during the past 40 years. However, the conditions under which ELF-MF represent a risk factor for leukemia are still unclear. Therefore, we have performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to clarify the relation between ELF-MF from several sources and childhood leukemia. We have systematically searched Medline, Scopus, Cochrane Database of Systematic Review and DARE to identify each article that has examined the relationship between ELF-MF and childhood leukemia. We have performed a global meta-analysis that takes into account the different measures used to assess magnetic field exposure: magnetic flux density measurements (<0.2 µT vs. >0.2 µT), distances between the child’s home and power lines (>200 m vs. <200 m) and wire codings (low current configuration vs. high current configuration). Moreover, meta-analyses either based on magnetic flux densities, on proximity to power lines or on wire codings have been performed. The association between electric appliances and childhood leukemia has also been examined. Of the 863 references identified, 38 studies have been included in our systematic review. Our global meta-analysis indicated an association between childhood leukemia and ELF-MF (21 studies, pooled OR=1.26; 95% CI 1.06–1.49), an association mainly explained by the studies conducted before 2000 (earlier studies: pooled OR=1.51; 95% CI 1.26–1.80 vs. later studies: pooled OR=1.04; 95% CI 0.84–1.29). Our meta-analyses based only on magnetic field measurements indicated that the magnetic flux density threshold associated with childhood leukemia is higher than 0.4 µT (12 studies, >0.4 µT: pooled OR=1.37; 95% CI 1.05–1.80; acute lymphoblastic leukemia alone: seven studies, >0.4 µT: pooled OR=1.88; 95% CI 1.31–2.70). Lower magnetic fields were not associated with leukemia (12 studies, 0.1–0.2 µT: pooled OR=1.04; 95% CI 0.88–1.24; 0.2–0.4 µT: pooled OR=1.07; 95% CI 0.87–1.30). Our meta-analyses based only on distances (five studies) showed that the pooled ORs for living within 50 m and 200 m of power lines were 1.11 (95% CI 0.81–1.52) and 0.98 (95% CI 0.85–1.12), respectively. The pooled OR for living within 50 m of power lines and acute lymphoblastic leukemia analyzed separately was 1.44 (95% CI 0.72–2.88). Our meta-analyses based only on wire codings (five studies) indicated that the pooled OR for the very high current configuration (VHCC) was 1.23 (95% CI 0.72–2.10). Finally, the risk of childhood leukemia was increased after exposure to electric blankets (four studies, pooled OR=2.75; 95% CI 1.71–4.42) and, to a lesser extent, electric clocks (four studies, pooled OR=1.27; 95% CI 1.01–1.60). Our results suggest that ELF-MF higher than 0.4 µT can increase the risk of developing leukemia in children, probably acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Prolonged exposure to electric appliances that generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT like electric blankets is associated with a greater risk of childhood leukemia.

Our results have practical implications. Our meta-analysis suggests that exposure to residential magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT can increase the risk of leukemia in children. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize the fact that very few homes are exposed to magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT generated by overhead power lines in high income countries [11, 30]. Moreover, the annual incidence of childhood leukemia is very low and ranges between 35 and 50 cases per million children in western European countries and North America [69]. Since the absolute risk of childhood leukemia is very low and children are rarely continuously exposed to magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT in high income countries, the increased leukemia risk found in our meta-analysis does not represent a major public health concern in these countries. Magnetic flux densities higher than 0.4 µT are usually within 50 m of overhead power lines [11] even if Crespi et al. [30] found some subjects living between 50 and 200 m away from overhead power lines (over 200 kV) that were exposed to ELF-MF higher than 0.4 µT. Magnetic flux density measurements should be performed if children live within 200 m of overhead power lines to guarantee that they are not exposed to ELF-MF higher than 0.4 µT. In contrast, living more than 200 m away from overhead power lines could be considered a safe distance for children that is not linked to a higher leukemia risk. Our systematic review suggests that children from middle income countries like Mexico and Iran are more likely to be exposed to magnetic fields above 0.4 µT and the risk of leukemia attributable to ELF-MF is probably higher in these countries. It is noteworthy that none of the studies included in our review have been performed in low income countries or in Africa. More research on ELF-MF and childhood leukemia is needed in these countries, particularly in African countries.
Our meta-analyses suggest that exposure to electric appliances like electric blankets and bedside electric clocks increase the risk of leukemia in children. However, it is important to note that the studies that have found an association between these electric appliances and childhood leukemia have been performed more than 20 years ago and our findings should be interpreted based on the electric equipment used today. Electric blankets and bedside electric clocks used at the end of the twentieth century could generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT and children were typically exposed to these electric appliances during several hours in a row [67]. In contrast, hair dryers can also generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT but are usually used during a shorter period of time [67] and we did not find a significant association between the use of hair dryers and childhood leukemia. These findings are relevant today in the sense that the duration of exposure to ELF-MF plays a role and that children should not be exposed to electric appliances that generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT during long periods of time. Importantly, Magne and colleagues [70] have measured personal exposure to ELF-MF in French children between 2007 and 2009. They have found that alarm clocks were the main variable linked to the magnetic field exposure of the children. The proportion of children exposed to magnetic fields higher than 0.4 μT was 3.1% when all children were included in the analysis and 0.8% when the analysis was restricted to children for which no alarm clock had been identified. Taken together, these results and ours suggest that “bedside” electric clocks and alarm clocks that generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 μT at close distance should be located at least 1 m away from the bed of the child, because the magnetic flux density generated by electric clocks was lower than 0.4 μT at this distance in the study by Preece et al. [71]. To the best of our knowledge, there is no recent update of the study by Behrens et al. [67] that has performed reliable magnetic flux density measurements for electric appliances manufactured recently that generate ELF-MF. Studies with reliable exposure characterization with respect to sources of ELF-MF are needed, especially for the electric appliances manufactured recently that we use on a daily basis.

In summary, our study suggests that exposure to ELF-MF higher than 0.4 µT increases the risk of developing leukemia in children. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is probably the subtype of leukemia associated with ELF-MF. Prolonged exposure to electric appliances that generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT like electric blankets is associated with a more elevated risk of childhood leukemia. The distance from power lines linked to leukemia is difficult to determine but living more than 200 m away from power lines is likely a safe distance for children not associated with a higher leukemia risk.


Corresponding author: Christian Brabant, WHO Collaborating Centre for Public Health Aspects of Musculo-Skeletal Health and Ageing, Division of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics, University of Liège, Avenue Hippocrate, 13/B-23, B-4000 Liège, Belgium; and Department of Psychology, Cognition and Behavior, University of Liège, Place des Orateurs, 2/B-32, Liège, Belgium, Phone: +32 43 66 25 81, Fax: +32 43 66 28 12, E-mail:

Pooled analysis of recent studies of magnetic fields and childhood leukemia
Aryana T. Amoon, John Swanson, Corrado Magnani, Christoffer Johansen, Leeka Kheifets. Pooled analysis of recent studies of magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. Environmental Research. Volume 204, Part A, 2022. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111993.
Background
Over forty epidemiologic studies have addressed an association between measured or calculated extremely-low-frequency magnetic fields (MF) and childhood leukemia. These studies have been aggregated in a series of pooled analyses, but it has been 10 years since the last such.
We present a pooled analysis combining individual-level data (24,994 cases, 30,769 controls) from four recent studies on MF and childhood leukemia.
Unlike previous pooled analyses, we found no increased risk of leukemia among children exposed to greater MF: odds ratio (OR) = 1.01, for exposure ≥0.4 μT (μT) compared with exposures <0.1 μT. Similarly, no association was observed in the subset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, birth homes, studies using calculated fields, or when geocoding accuracy was ignored. In these studies, there is a decline in risk over time, also evident when we compare three pooled analyses. A meta-analysis of the three pooled analyses overall presents an OR of 1.45 (95% CI: 0.95–2.20) for exposures ≥0.4 μT.
Conclusions
Our results are not in line with previous pooled analysis and show a decrease in effect to no association between MF and childhood leukemia. This could be due to methodological issues, random chance, or a true finding of disappearing effect.
Funding information 

This work was supported by the research grant from Electric Power Research Institute. SETIL was financially supported by research grants received from the Italian Association on Research on Cancer (AIRC), the Ministry for Instruction, University, and Research, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour, and Piedmont Region.

Residential mobility and childhood leukemia

Amoon AT, Oksuzyan S, Crespi CM, Arah OA, Cockburn M, Vergara X, Kheifets L. Residential mobility and childhood leukemia. Environ Res. 2018 Mar 22;164:459-466. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.03.016.
Highlights
• Children who moved were older, had younger mothers, and lower SES.
• Non-movers showed stronger associations with EMF exposures and childhood leukemia.
• Adjustment for variables predicting mobility, save dwelling, did not alter results.
• Mobility does not appear to explain observed links between EMF and leukemia. 
AIMS: Studies of environmental exposures and childhood leukemia studies do not usually account for residential mobility. Yet, in addition to being a potential risk factor, mobility can induce selection bias, confounding, or measurement error in such studies. Using data collected for California Powerline Study (CAPS), we attempt to disentangle the effect of mobility.
METHODS: We analyzed data from a population-based case-control study of childhood leukemia using cases who were born in California and diagnosed between 1988 and 2008 and birth certificate controls. We used stratified logistic regression, case-only analysis, and propensity-score adjustments to assess predictors of residential mobility between birth and diagnosis, and account for potential confounding due to residential mobility.
RESULTS: Children who moved tended to be older, lived in housing other than single-family homes, had younger mothers and fewer siblings, and were of lower socioeconomic status. Odds ratios for leukemia among non-movers living <50 meters (m) from a 200+ kilovolt line (OR: 1.62; 95% CI: 0.72-3.65) and for calculated fields ≥ 0.4 microTesla (OR: 1.71; 95% CI: 0.65-4.52) were slightly higher than previously reported overall results. Adjustments for propensity scores based on all variables predictive of mobility, including dwelling type, increased odds ratios for leukemia to 2.61 (95% CI: 1.76-3.86) for living < 50 m from a 200 + kilovolt line and to 1.98 (1.11-3.52) for calculated fields. Individual or propensity-score adjustments for all variables, except dwelling type, did not materially change the estimates of power line exposures on childhood leukemia.
CONCLUSION: The residential mobility of childhood leukemia cases varied by several sociodemographic characteristics, but not by the distance to the nearest power line or calculated magnetic fields. Mobility appears to be an unlikely explanation for the associations observed between power lines exposure and childhood leukemia.
Funding: This work was supported by the Electric Power Research Institute. Crespi was also partially supported by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (grant P30 CA16042). Vergara is an employee of the Electric Power Research Institute.
Occupational ELF-MF exposure and hematolymphopoietic cancers – 
Swiss National Cohort analysis and updated meta-analysis
Huss A, Spoerri A, Egger M, Kromhout H, Vermeulen R; Swiss National Cohort. Occupational extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) exposure and hematolymphopoietic cancers – Swiss National Cohort analysis and updated meta-analysis. Environ Res. 2018 Mar 24;164:467-474. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.03.022.
Highlights
• ELF-MF exposure may affect specific hematolymphopoietic malignancies rather than “all leukaemia”.
• We evaluated effects of occupational ELF-MF exposure on different types of hematolymphopoietic malignancies.
• We observed increased risks of AML if workers were exposed to higher levels and for a longer period of time.
• Risks were in line with meta-analysed findings of previous studies. 
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).
Meta-analysis of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields and cancer risk: 
a pooled analysis of epidemiologic studies



Zhang Y, Lai J, Ruan G, Chen C, Wang DW. Meta-analysis of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields and cancer risk: a pooled analysis of epidemiologic studies. Environ Int. 2015 Dec 15;88:36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.12.012.


Highlights

• A significant association between ELF-EMF exposure and cancer risk was identified.
• Subgroup analysis revealed increased risk only in North America, especially in United States.
• However, the data from individual European country was contradicted with each other.
• Increased risk was only observed in residential exposure or interview-based surveys.
• Device measured studies obtained no significant association in overall effects.



Abstract


Human-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs), such as nonionizing radiation, are classified into three categories: extremely low frequency fields (< 300 Hz) ….

Studies have suggested that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) may affect physiological functions in animal models. However, epidemiologic studies investigating the association of ELF-EMF with the susceptibility to cancer yield contradictory results.

In this comprehensive analysis, we conducted a search for case-control surveys regarding the associations of ELF-EMF and cancer susceptibility in electronic databases. A total of 42 studies involving 13,259 cases and 100,882 controls were retrieved. 




All studies were case–control studies, including 23 breast cancer …, 1 testicular cancer …, 1 acoustic neuroma …, 1 endometrial cancer …., and 3 other cancer cases.

Overall, increased susceptibility to cancer was identified in the ELF-EMF exposed population (OR=1.08, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.15, P=0.02). In the stratified analyses, increased risk was found in North America (OR=1.10; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.20, P=0.02), especially the United States (OR=1.10; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.20, P=0.03). However, studies from Europe contradict these results. Moreover, a higher risk was found to be statistically significantly associated with the residential exposed population (OR=1.18; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.37, P=0.03). Furthermore, an increased cancer risk was found in interview-based surveys (OR=1.16; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.35, P=0.04). In device measurement-based studies, a slight increased risk was found only in premenopausal breast cancer (OR=1.23; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.49, P=0.04).

Our meta-analysis suggests that ELF-EMFs are associated with cancer risk, mainly in the United States and in residential exposed populations. Methodological challenges might explain the differences among studies.



http://1.usa.gov/1R4n2AJ


Excerpts


The overall evaluation conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), while static electric and magnetic fields and extremely low-frequency electric fields are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3) (Humans, 2002).

ELF-EMFs are mainly generated by power transmission lines, power equipment or appliances (Chen et al., 2013). Because of the rapid development of industry and society, humans are surrounded by various electric devices, and exposure to ELF-EMFs is increasing. Currently, the biological effects induced by ELF-EMFs on human health have become a cause for concern (Grellier et al., 2014 and Zhang et al., 2015).

In general, animal experiments have produced positive results for all known human carcinogens, for which adequate testing has been performed (Humans, 2002). However, it is notable that childhood leukemia is the only cancer outcome for which this association has been consistently found using epidemiological methods (Grellier et al., 2014). It has been hypothesized that experiments designed following the classical two-step initiator–promoter concept of carcinogenesis may not be appropriate for understanding the biological effects of ELF-EMFs, as disease progression may result from complex interactions of genotoxic and non-genotoxic carcinogens (Juutilainen, 2008).

The results in Fig. 2 show that weak association between EMF-ELF exposure and susceptibility to cancer was identified when all the eligible studies were pooled (OR = 1.08, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.15, P = 0.02) regardless of the exposure models or cancer types (Fig. 2).

In the country subgroup analysis, a statistically significant increase in risk was found in North America (15 breast cancer, 3 brain cancer, 1 leukemia and 1 other cancer; OR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.20, P = 0.02), mainly in the United States (14 breast cancer, 3 brain cancer and 1 other cancer; OR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.20, P = 0.03). On the contrary, no statistically significant association between EMF-ELFs and cancer risk was found in a global analysis of European studies (7 breast cancer, 7 brain cancer, 8 leukemia and 5 other cancers) …. An increased risk of cancer was found in Norway (3 breast cancer, 1 brain cancer, 1 leukemia and 1 other cancer; OR = 1.11, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.21, P = 0.02) and France (1 brain cancer and 1 leukemia; OR = 1.38, 95% CI: 1.03, 1.84, P = 0.03), while a decreased risk was found in Sweden (4 breast cancer, 1 brain cancer, 1 leukemia and 1 other cancer; OR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.84, 0.96, P = 0.001) and England (2 brain cancer, 2 leukemia and 2 other cancers; OR = 0.82, 95% CI: 0.69, 0.96, P = 0.02). In addition, a study from New Zealand also showed an increased cancer risk (1 leukemia; OR = 1.97, 95% CI: 1.08, 3.59, P = 0.03) …. Further subgroup analyses based on cancer type did not reveal any statistically significant associations in all of the analyzed types. When compared by exposure methods, an increased risk was only observed in residential exposure populations (OR = 1.18; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.37, P = 0.03).  




[Note that the 23 studies that examined breast cancer risk yielded a marginally significant association with ELF-EMF exposure (OR = 1.07, p = .06)].

In conclusion, in our study, relevant literature selected from broad databases with stringent standards revealed an increased risk of cancer upon ELF-EMF exposure. However, more quantitative studies will contribute to more comprehensive results in the future.


https://www.saferemr.com/2015/12/cancer-risk-from-exposure-to-power.html