Exposure to power frequency electric fields and the risk of childhood cancer in the UK

J. Skinner, T. J. Mee, R. P. Blackwell, Myron Maslanyj, J. Simpson, S. G. Allen, Nick E. Day*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)


    The United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study, a population-based case - control study covering the whole of Great Britain, incorporated a pilot study measuring electric fields. Measurements were made in the homes of 473 children who were diagnosed with a malignant neoplasm between 1992 and 1996 and who were aged 0-14 at diagnosis, together with 453 controls matched on age, sex and geographical location. Exposure assessments comprised resultant spot measurements in the child's bedroom and the family living-room. Temporal stability of bedroom fields was investigated through continuous logging of the 48-h vertical component at the child's bedside supported by repeat spot measurements. The principal exposure metric used was the mean of the pillow and bed centre measurements. For the 273 cases and 276 controls with fully validated measures, comparing those with a measured electric field exposure ≥20 V m-1 to those in a reference category of exposure < 10 V m-1, odds ratios of 1.31 (95% confidence interval 0.68-2.54) for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, 1.32 (95% confidence interval 0.73-2.39) for total leukaemia, 2.12 (95% confidence interval 0.78-5.78) for central nervous system cancers and 1.26 (95% confidence interval 0.77-2.07) for all malignancies were obtained, When considering the 426 cases and 419 controls with no invalid measures, the corresponding odds ratios were 0.86 (95% confidence interval 0.49-1.51) for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, 0.93 (95% confidence interval 0.56-1.54) for total leukaemia, 1.43 (95% confidence interval 0.68-3.02) for central nervous system cancers and 0.90 (95% confidence interval 0.59-1.35) for all malignancies. With exposure modelled as a continuous variable, odds ratios for an increase in the principal metric of 10 V m-1 were close to unity for all disease categories, never differing significantly from one.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1257-1266
    Number of pages10
    JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2002

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study is sponsored and administered by the United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research. The Study is conducted by twelve teams of investigators (ten clinical and epidemiological and two biological) based in university departments, research institutes and the National Health Service in Scotland. The work is co-ordinated by a Management Committee and in Scotland by a Steering Group. It is supported by the UK Children’s Cancer Study Group of paediatric oncologists and by the National Radiological Protection Board.

    Funding Information:
    The study of electric fields has been made possible by funding from the Foundation for Children with Leukaemia. Financial support has also been provided by the Cancer Research Campaign, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, the Leukaemia Research Fund, and the Medical Research Council through grants to their units; by the Leukaemia Research Fund, the Department of Health, the Electricity Association, the Irish Electricity Supply Board (ESB), the National Grid Company plc, and Westlakes Research (Trading) Ltd through grants for the general expenses of the study and by the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund for the associated laboratories studies. The investigation in Scotland is funded principally by The Scottish Office, and by ScottishPower plc, Scottish Hydro-Electric plc and Scottish Nuclear Ltd.


    • Childhood cancer
    • Electric fields
    • Leukaemia


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