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Bioelectromagnetics. 2016 Apr;37(3):183-189. doi: 10.1002/bem.21963. Epub 2016 Mar 15.

Extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and risk of childhood leukemia: A risk assessment by the ARIMMORA consortium.

Author information

Section of Environment and Radiation, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France.
Fraunhofer ITEM, Hanover, Germany.
National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Electronics, Computer and Telecommunication Engineering, Milan, Italy.
University of Basel and Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland.
Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.
IT'IS: Foundation for Research on Information Technologies in Society, Zürich, Switzerland.
Medical Faculty, Department of Pediatric Oncology, Haematology and Clinical Immunology, Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Madrid, Spain.
University of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover, Germany.
Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Instituto de Biologia Molecular y Celular del Cancer, Salamanca, Spain.
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovat, Israel.
University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.
German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Neuherberg, Germany.


Exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) was evaluated in an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" in 2001, based on increased childhood leukemia risk observed in epidemiological studies. We conducted a hazard assessment using available scientific evidence published before March 2015, with inclusion of new research findings from the Advanced Research on Interaction Mechanisms of electroMagnetic exposures with Organisms for Risk Assessment (ARIMMORA) project. The IARC Monograph evaluation scheme was applied to hazard identification. In ARIMMORA for the first time, a transgenic mouse model was used to mimic the most common childhood leukemia: new pathogenic mechanisms were indicated, but more data are needed to draw definitive conclusions. Although experiments in different animal strains showed exposure-related decreases of CD8+ T-cells, a role in carcinogenesis must be further established. No direct damage of DNA by exposure was observed. Overall in the literature, there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals, with only weak supporting evidence from mechanistic studies. New exposure data from ARIMMORA confirmed that if the association is nevertheless causal, up to 2% of childhood leukemias in Europe, as previously estimated, may be attributable to ELF-MF. In summary, ARIMMORA concludes that the relationship between ELF-MF and childhood leukemia remains consistent with possible carcinogenicity in humans. While this scientific uncertainty is dissatisfactory for science and public health, new mechanistic insight from ARIMMORA experiments points to future research that could provide a step-change in future assessments. Bioelectromagnetics. 37:183-189, 2016.


adverse effects; children; electromagnetic fields; hazard identification; leukemia; risk assessment


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