Leukemia and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields: An incident case-control study

Boji Huang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The existence of an association between leukemia and electromagnetic fields (EMF) is still controversial. The results of epidemiologic studies of leukemia in occupational groups with exposure to EMF are inconsistent. Weak associations have been seen in a few studies. EMF assessment is lacking in precision. Reported dose-response relationships have been based on qualitative levels of exposure to EMF without regard to duration of employment or EMF intensity on the jobs. Furthermore, potential confounding factors in the associations were not often well controlled. The current study is an analysis of the data collected from an incident case-control study. The primary objective was to test the hypothesis that occupational exposure to EMF is associated with leukemia, including total leukemia (TL), myelogenous leukemia (MYELOG) and acute non-lymphoid leukemia (ANLL). Potential confounding factors: occupational exposure to benzene, age, smoking, alcohol consumption, and previous medical radiation exposures were controlled in multivariate logistic regression models. Dose-response relationships were estimated by cumulative occupational exposure to EMF, taking into account duration of employment and EMF intensity on the jobs. In order to overcome weaknesses of most previous studies, special efforts were made to improve the precision of EMF assessment. Two definitions of EMF were used and result discrepancies using the two definitions were observed. These difference raised a question as to whether the workers at jobs with low EMF exposure should be considered as non-exposed in future studies. In addition, the current study suggested use of lifetime cumulative EMF exposure estimates to determine dose-response relationship. The analyses of the current study suggest an association between ANLL and employment at selected jobs with high EMF exposure. The existence of an association between three types of leukemia and broader categories of occupational EMF exposure, is still undetermined. If an association does exist between occupational EMF exposure and leukemia, the results of the current study suggest that EMF might only be a potential factor in the promotion of leukemia, but not its initiation.

Subject Area

Occupational safety|Public health

Recommended Citation

Huang, Boji, "Leukemia and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields: An incident case-control study" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9401772.