Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Adult Cancers Near High-voltage Power Lines

Elliott, Paul; Toledano, Mireille B.

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31829f99a0

Small Area Health Statistics Unit, MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, St Mary’s Campus, London, United Kingdom,,

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

P.E. received support for the study from UK Department of Health, grant number RRX106. The Energy Networks Association also contributed funding through a grant to the Department of Health. A Steering Committee comprising independent experts and representatives of the funders advised on study design and commented on the protocol. The Department of Health, Energy Networks Association, and National Grid were not involved in the writing or interpretation of this report, which is the responsibility of the authors alone.The Small Area Health Statistics Unit is funded by the Health Protection Agency as part of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London. P.E. is a National Institute for Health Research Senior Investigator.

P.E. acknowledges support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre based at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London.

The authors respond:

The letters from de Vocht1 and Philips et al2 both note that, in our national study of adult cancer risk and high-voltage power lines,3 point estimates >1.0 were observed in close proximity to power lines for the risk of leukemia and of brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors, even though confidence intervals were wide. Philips et al2 reaggregate the distance cutoffs shown in our figures and tables and, after adjustment for potential confounders, report an association (P = 0.03) for a one-sided test for leukemia within 100 m of a power line.

In a study of childhood cancers in Great Britain based on the National Grid power line data, Draper et al4 found an excess of childhood leukemia that extended up to 600 m of a power line. However, the pattern of excess risks did not match magnetic field estimates, leading the authors to question a causal association with magnetic fields as an explanation for their findings. Similarly, we give greater weight to our findings on magnetic fields than to our findings regarding distance from power lines, especially in view of evidence in our article of potential confounding between distance and socioeconomic factors.

Unlike in other studies, we were able to examine risks associated with magnetic field estimates up to 1000 nT or more. As noted in our report, there were no meaningful excess risks observed for leukemia and brain/CNS cancers with or without adjustment for potential confounders, and no trend of risk with increasing magnetic fields. Our findings do not support an epidemiologic association between magnetic fields and risk of adult cancers.

Paul Elliott

Mireille B. Toledano

Small Area Health Statistics Unit

MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health

School of Public Health

Imperial College London

St Mary’s Campus

London, United Kingdom,

Back to Top | Article Outline


1. de Vocht F. Adult cancers near high-voltage power lines [letter]. Epidemiology. 2013;24:782
2. Philips A, O’Carroll M, Henshaw D, Lamburn G. Adult cancers near high-voltage power lines [letter]. Epidemiology. 2013;24:782–783
3. Elliott P, Shaddick G, Douglass M, de Hoogh K, Briggs DJ, Toledano MB. Adult cancers near high-voltage overhead power lines. Epidemiology. 2013;24:184–190
4. Draper G, Vincent T, Kroll ME, Swanson J. Childhood cancer in relation to distance from high voltage power lines in England and Wales: a case-control study. BMJ. 2005;330:1290
© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc