Original Paper

Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 945-955

First online:

Maternal occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields and the risk of brain cancer in the offspring

  • Peizhi LiAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University
  • , John McLaughlinAffiliated withCancer Care OntarioDella Lana School of Public Health, University of TorontoSamuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital
  • , Claire Infante-RivardAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University Email author 

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine the contribution of maternal occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) shortly before and during pregnancy on the incidence of childhood brain tumors.

Methods

A total of 548 incident cases and 760 healthy controls recruited between 1980 and 2002 from two Canadian provinces (Québec and Ontario) were included in this study, and their mothers were interviewed. Quantitative occupational ELF-MF exposure in microTesla units was estimated using individual exposure estimations or a job exposure matrix. We used three metrics to analyze exposure: cumulative, average, and maximum level attained.

Results

Using the average exposure metric measured before conception, an increased risk was observed for astroglial tumors (OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.0–2.4). During the entire pregnancy period, a significantly increased risk was observed for astroglial tumors as well as for all childhood brain tumors with the average metric (OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.1–2.5 and OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.1–2.2, respectively). Based on job titles, a twofold risk increase was observed for astroglial tumors (OR = 2.3, 95% CI = 0.8–6.3) and for all childhood brain tumors (OR = 2.3, 95% CI = 1.0–5.4) among sewing machine operators.

Conclusions

Results are suggestive of a possible association between maternal occupational ELF-MF exposure and certain brain tumors in their offspring.

Keywords

Brain neoplasms Childhood neoplasms Occupational exposure Maternal exposure Electromagnetic fields