Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 197–204 | Cite as

Incidence of breast cancer in Norwegian female radio and telegraph operators

  • Tore Tynes
  • Merete Hannevik
  • Aage Andersen
  • Arnt Inge Vistnes
  • Tor Haldorsen
Review Papers

Exposure to electromagnetic fields may cause breast cancer in women if it increases susceptibility to sex-hormone-related cancer by diminishing the pineal gland's production of melatonin. We have studied breast cancer incidence in female radio and telegraph operators with potential exposure to light at night, radio frequency (405 kHz-25 MHz), and, to some extent, extremely low frequency fields (50 Hz). We linked the Norwegian Telecom cohort of female radio and telegraph operators working at sea to the Cancer Registry of Norway to study incident cases of breast cancer. The cohort consisted of 2,619 women who were certified to work as radio and telegraph operators between 1920 and 1980. Cancer incidence was analyzed on the basis of the standardized incidence ratio (SIR), with the Norwegian female population as the comparison group. The incidence of all cancers was close to unity (SIR=1.2). An excess risk was seen for breast cancer (SIR=1.5). Analysis of a nested case-control study within the cohort showed an association between breast cancer in women aged 50 + years and shift work. In a model with adjustment for age, calendar year, and year of first birth, the rate ratio for breast cancer associated with being a radio and telegraph operator-in comparison with all Norwegian women born 1935 or later-analyzed with Poisson regression, was 1.5 after adjustment for fertility factors. These results support a possible association between work as a radio and telegraph operator and breast cancer. Future epidemiologic studies on breast cancer in women aged 50 and over, should address possible disturbances of chronobiological parameters by environmental factors.

Key words

Breast cancer case-control cohort electromagnetic Norway radiofrequency seamen women 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Wertheimer N, Leeper E. Electrical wiring configuration and childhood cancer. Am J Epidemiol 1979; 109: 273–84.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Milham S. Mortality from leukemia in workers exposed to electrical and magnetic fields. N Engl J Med 1982; 307: 249.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Feychting M, Ahlbom A. Magnetic fields and cancer in children residing near Swedish high-voltage power lines. Am J Epidemiol 1993; 138: 467–81.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Loomis DP, Savitz DA, Ananth CV. Breast cancer mortality among female electrical workers in the United States. JNCI 1994; 86: 921–5.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Guenel P, Rasmark P, Andersen JB et al. Incidence of cancer in persons with occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields in Denmark. Br J Ind Med 1993; 42: 191–5.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Vågerö D, Ahlbom A, Olin R, Sahlsten S. Cancer morbidity among workers in the telecommunication industry. Br J Ind Med 1985; 42: 191–5.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Vågerö D, Olin R. Incidence of cancer in the electronics industry: Using the new Swedish Cancer Environment Registry as a screening instrument. Br J Ind Med 1983; 40: 188–92.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Wertheimer N, Leeper ED. Magnetic field exposure related to cancer subtypes. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1987; 502: 43.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Demers PA, Thomas DB, Rosenblatt KA et al. Occupational exposure to electromagnetic radiation and breast cancer in males. Am J Epidemiol 1991; 134: 340.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Matanoski G, Elliot E, Breysse P. Cancer incidence in New York telephone workers. Lancet 1991; 337: 737.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tynes T, Andersen A. Electromagnetic fields and male breast cancer. Lancet 1990; 336: 1596.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Stevens RG. Electric power use and breast cancer: a hypothesis. Am J Epidemiol 1987; 125: 556–61.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Stevens RG, Davis S, Thomas DB, Anderson LE, Wilson BW. Electric power, pineal function, and the risk of cancer. FASEB J 1992; 6: 853–60.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    World Health Organization. Electromagnetic Fields (300 Hz to 300 GHz). Geneva, Switzerland: 1993; Environmental Health Criteria 137.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Milham S. Increased mortality in amateur radio operators due to lymphatic and hematopoietic malignancies. Am J Epidemiol 1988; 127: 50–4.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Szmigielski S, Szudzinski A, Pietraszek A, Bielec M, Wrembel JK. Accelerated development of spontaneous and benzopyrene-induced skin cancer in mice exposed to 2450 MHz microwave radiation. Biolectromagnetics 1982; 3: 179–91.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Mayers CP, Habeshaw JA. Depression of phagocytosis: A non-thermal effect of microwave radiation as a potential hazard to health. Int J Radiat Biol 1973; 24: 449–61.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pedersen E, Magnus K. Cancer Registration in Norway, 1953–54. Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Cancer Society, 1959.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    World Health Organization. International Classification of Diseases, Seventh Revision, Geneva, Switzerland: WHO, 1957.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kvåle G, Heuch I, Eide GE. A prospective study of reproductive factors and breast cancer. I. Parity. II. Age at first and last birth. Am J Epidemiol 1987; 126: 831–50.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    International Standard of Classification. International Standard of Classification of Occupations (ISCO). Geneva, Switzerland: ISC, 1958.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Tynes T, Andersen A, Langmark F. Incidence of cancer in Norwegian workers potentially exposed to electromagnetic fields. Am J Epidemiol 1992; 136: 81–2.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Preston DL, Lubin JH, Pierce D, McConney M. Epicure. Seattle, WA (USA): Hirosoft International Corporation, 1993.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Statistical Software, Statistics and Epidemiology Research Corporation. EGRET. Seattle, WA (USA): SERC Inc., 1988.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Tamarkin L, Cohen M, Roselle D. Melafouronin inhibition and pinealectomy enhancement of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced mammary tumors in the rat. Cancer Res 1981; 41: 4432–61.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Narito T, Kudo H. Effect of melatonin on B16 melanoma growth in athymic mice. Cancer Res 1985; 45: 4175–7.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Moolgavkar SH, Day NE, Stevens RG. Two-stage model for carcinogenesis: Epidemiology of breast cancer in females. JNCI 1980; 65: 559–69.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Boice JDJr, Stone BJ. Interaction between radiation and other breast cancer risk factors. In. Late Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation. Vienna, Austria: International Atomic Energy Agency, 1978: 231–49.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA). IRPA Guidelines on Protection against Non-ionizing Radiation. New York, NY (USA): Pergamon Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Skotte J. Exposure of radio officers to radio frequency radiation on Danish merchant ships. Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 1984; 45: 791–5.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rogot E, Sorlie PD, Johnson NJ et al. Second Data Book: a Mortality Study of 1.3 Million Persons by Demographic, Social and Economic Factors: 1979–1985 Follow-up. Bethesda, MD (USA): National Institute of Health, 1992; Pub. No. (NIH) 92–3297.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Harland JD, Liburdy RP. ELF inhibition and tamoxifen's action on MCF-7 cell proliferation. Abstract presented at the annual review meeting of research on biological effects of electric and magnetic fields from the generation, delivery and use of electricity. Albequerque, NM (USA), Nov. 6–10, 1994.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Rapid Science Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tore Tynes
  • Merete Hannevik
  • Aage Andersen
  • Arnt Inge Vistnes
  • Tor Haldorsen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations