Cohort and Nested Case-Control Studies of Hematopoietic Cancers and Brain Cancer among Electric Utility Workers.

Sahl, Jack D.; Kelsh, Michael A.; Greenland, Sander

Recent studies have raised concern about the potential health effects of occupational exposures to power frequency electric and magnetic fields. We evaluated cancer mortality for leukemia, brain cancer, and lymphoma from 1960 to 1988 in a cohort of 36,221 electric utility workers using cohort analyses and three nested case-control studies. From a volunteer sample of the current workforce that represented a variety of different occupations and work locations, we collected 776 days of magnetic field measurements. We derived exposure information from company job history information and developed exposure scores by linking job history data to measured magnetic fields. In job title analyses, we compared "electrical workers" with other field and craft occupations, office, and technical support staff. Age-specific cancer rates for electrical and reference workers were similar. "Electrical workers" had rate ratios or odds ratios ranging from 0.7 to 1.4. Most ratios were close to 1.0. Lymphomas were slightly elevated compared with leukemias and brain cancers (ratios of 0.9-1.4 vs 0.7-1.2, respectively). Odds ratios for magnetic field exposure indices, based on scores for the mean, median, 99th percentile, and fractions exceeding 10 milligauss and 50 milligauss, were all close to or less than 1.0. The interval estimates indicate no strong association but are somewhat limited by imprecision.

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