Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 945–955

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

  • Peizhi Li
  • John McLaughlin
  • Claire Infante-Rivard
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10552-009-9311-5

Cite this article as:
Li, P., McLaughlin, J. & Infante-Rivard, C. Cancer Causes Control (2009) 20: 945. doi:10.1007/s10552-009-9311-5



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.


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.


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.


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


Brain neoplasmsChildhood neoplasmsOccupational exposureMaternal exposureElectromagnetic fields

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peizhi Li
    • 1
  • John McLaughlin
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Claire Infante-Rivard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of MedicineMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Cancer Care OntarioTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Della Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Samuel Lunenfeld Research InstituteMount Sinai HospitalTorontoCanada