Distance from residence to power line and risk of childhood leukemia: a population-based case–control study in Denmark

Abstract

Purpose

Epidemiological studies have found an association between exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) and childhood leukemia. In 2005, a large British study showed an association between proximity of residence to high-voltage power lines and the risk of childhood leukemia. The association extended beyond distances at which the ‘power line’-induced magnetic fields exceed background levels, suggesting that the association was not explained by the magnetic field, but might be due to chance, bias, or other risk factors associated with proximity to power lines. Our aim was to conduct a comparable study in an independent setting (Denmark).

Methods

We included 1,698 cases aged <15, diagnosed with leukemia during 1968–2006, from the Danish Cancer Registry and 3,396 controls randomly selected from the Danish childhood population and individually matched by gender and year of birth. We used geographical information systems to determine the distance between residence at birth and the nearest 132–400 kV overhead power line.

Results

Odds ratios (ORs) were 0.76 [95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.40–1.45] for children who lived 0–199 m from the nearest power line and 0.92 (95 % CI 0.67–1.25) for those who lived 200–599 m away when compared with children who lived ≥600 m away. When restricting the analysis to 220 and 400 kV overhead power lines, the OR for children who lived 200–599 m from a power line was 1.76 (95 % CI 0.82–3.77) compared to children who lived ≥600 m away. However, chance is a likely explanation for this finding as the result was not significant, numbers were small, and there were no indications of an higher risk closer to the lines since no cases were observed within 200 m of these.

Conclusions

We found no higher risk of leukemia for children living 0–199 m or for children living 200–599 m of a 132–400 kV overhead power line. A slightly elevated OR for children living between 200 and 599 m of a 220–400 kV overhead power line is likely to be a chance finding.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant by the foundation Children with Cancer UK (formerly Children with Leukemia), by Danish Energy for provision and estimation of exposure data; and by the Danish Cancer Society.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Camilla Pedersen.

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Pedersen, C., Raaschou-Nielsen, O., Rod, N.H. et al. Distance from residence to power line and risk of childhood leukemia: a population-based case–control study in Denmark. Cancer Causes Control 25, 171–177 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-013-0319-5

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Keywords

  • Childhood leukemia
  • Power lines
  • Electromagnetic fields
  • Case–control study