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Am J Epidemiol. 2001 May 1;153(9):825-35.

Leukemia, brain tumors, and exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields in Swiss railway employees.

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Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland.


Railway engineers provide excellent opportunities for studying the relation between exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields and leukemia or brain tumors. In a cohort study of Swiss railway personnel with 2.7 x 10(5) person-years of follow-up (1972--1993), the authors compared occupations with high average exposures (line engineers: 25.9 microT) to those with medium and low exposures (station masters: 1 microT). The mortality rate ratio for leukemia was 2.4 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0, 6.1) among line engineers (reference category: station masters). The mortality rate ratio for brain tumors was 1.0 (95% CI: 0.2, 4.6) among line engineers and 5.1 (95% CI: 1.2, 21.2) among shunting yard engineers (compared with station masters). Two exposure characteristics were evaluated: cumulative exposure in microT-years and years spent under exposure to magnetic fields of > or =10 microT. There was a significant increase in leukemia mortality of 0.9% (95% CI: 0.2, 1.7) per microT-year of cumulative exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields. The increase by years spent under exposure of > or =10 microT was even stronger: 62% per year (95% CI: 15, 129). Brain cancer risk did not show a dose-response relation. This study contributes to the evidence for a link between heavy exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields and leukemia. Its strengths include reliable measurements and reliable historical reconstruction of exposures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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