Electromagnetic fields 'do not increase cancer risk' among energy workers

In collaboration with the Press Association

A large study of workers at electrical energy supply companies suggests that electromagnetic fields, which are associated with overhead powerlines, do not increase the risk of leukaemia, brain and breast cancers.

The study, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at the health and employment records of over 28,000 workers at 99 different electrical energy companies in Denmark, all of whom had been employed at the companies for at least three months since 1968 and were tracked for an average of nearly 23 years, or until they died.

Previously, it had been suggested that exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields of 50 to 60 Hz - the frequency used in overhead power lines - may be linked to an increased risk of leukaemia, brain and breast cancers.

However, when the researchers compared the workers' records with the Danish Cancer Registry - which has recorded all new cases of cancer since 1942 - they found that there was "no compelling evidence" for an increased risk of these cancers.

They found that there were no additional cases of leukaemia among men or breast cancer among women who had been exposed to medium to high frequency magnetic fields.

"We welcome the findings of this report," said Henry Scowcroft, Senior Information Officer at Cancer Research UK.

"People who work at electricity supply companies would be expected to have the highest rates of exposure to electromagnetic radiation, so the finding that they have 'normal' rates of these cancers is reassuring.

"Questions over electromagnetic radiation and cancer risk have caused considerable controversy and have frequently hit the headlines in recent years.

"This study backs up the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer's 2002 report, and goes a long way towards answering many of these questions."