The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Electromagnetic fields and breast cancer risk

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: People are exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) in different ways, such as through utility wires, electric blankets, microwave ovens and fluorescent lighting.

Regular exposure to EMF does not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer. Large prospective cohort studies and a meta-analysis that combined the results from 15 studies have found no link between the two.

Learn more about EMF and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer.  

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Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on power lines and breast cancer risk.*

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Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on cancer cluster studies of EMF and breast cancer risk.*

*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time. 

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies and nested case-control studies with at least 150 breast cancer cases and meta-analyses.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk. 

Study

Study Population
(number of participants)

Follow-up (years)

Type of
EMF Exposure

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women Regularly Exposed to EMF Compared to Women Not Regularly Exposed,
RR (95% CI)

Prospective cohort studies

Guenel et al. [1]

730,547
(3,122 cases)

17

Work-related exposure

0.88
(0.68-1.15)†

Verkasalo et al. [2]

194,400
(1,229 cases)

19

Home exposure
(living near power lines)

0.75
(0.48-1.13)‡

Laden et al. [3]

87,497
(954 cases)

4

Home exposure (electric blanket use)

1.08
(0.95-1.24)

Johansen et al. [4]

5,788
(188 cases)

23

Work-related exposure

1.04
(0.32-3.34)

Nested case-control studies

 

Cases

Controls

 

 

 

Forssén et al. [5]

20,400

116,227

 

Work-related exposure

1.01
(0.93-1.10)§

Kliukiene et al. [6]

1,830

3,658

 

Home exposure (living near power lines)

1.58
(1.30-1.92)

 

   

Work-related exposure
(multiple sources)

1.13
(0.91-1.40)

Ray et al. [7]

1,709

3,155

 

Long-term work-related exposure

0.86
(0.74-1.01)

London et al. [8]

743

699

 

Long-term home exposure (home wiring and living near power lines)

1.21
(0.50-2.96)

Breast Cancer on Long Island Study [9]

576

585

 

Long-term home exposure (multiple sources)

1.08
(0.77-1.51)

Meta-analyses

Chen et al. [10]

15 studies
(24,338 cases)

 

 

Home and work-related exposure

Total exposure:
0.99
(0.90-1.09)¶

Home exposure:
1.02
(0.92-1.12)

Work-related exposure:
0.93
(0.80-1.10) 

† The average rate of breast cancer in the working population was used as the comparison.

‡ The average rate of breast cancer in the general population was used as the comparison.

§ Findings also showed no increased risk of breast cancer from EMF exposure when examined by age groups (older and younger women) or by the hormone receptor status of the breast cancers.

¶ Findings also showed no increased breast cancer risk from electric blanket use. There was also no increased risk from EMF exposure when results were examined by menopause status of women or by the hormone receptor status of the breast cancers. 

References

  1. Guenel P, Raskmark P, Andersen J, et al. Incidence of cancer in persons with occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields in Denmark. Br J Industr Med. 50:758-64, 1993.
  2. Verkasalo PK, Pukkala E, Kaprio J, et al. Magnetic fields of high voltage power lines and risk of cancer in Finnish adults: Nationwide cohort study. Br Med J. 313:1047-51, 1996.
  3. Laden F, Neas LM, Tobert PE, et al. Electric blanket usage in the Nurses’ Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 152(1):41-9, 2000.
  4. Johansen C, Nielsen OR, Olsen JH, Schüz J. Risk for leukaemia and brain and breast cancer among Danish utility workers: a second follow-up. Occup Environ Med. 64(11):782-4, 2007.
  5. Forssén UM, Rutqvist LE, Ahlbom A, Feychting M. Occupational magnetic fields and female breast cancer: a case-control study using Swedish population registers and new exposure data. Am J Epidemiol. 161(3):250-9, 2005.
  6. Kliukienne J, Tynes T, and Andersen A. Residential and occupational exposure to 50-Hz magnetic fields and breast cancer in women: A population-based study. Am J Epidemiol. 159(9):852-61, 2004.
  7. Ray RM, Gao DL, Li W, et al. Occupational exposures and breast cancer among women textile workers in Shanghai. Epidemiology. 18(3):383-92, 2007.
  8. London SJ, Pogoda JM, Hwang KL, Langholz B, Monroe KR, Kolonel LN, Kaune WT, Peters JM, Henderson BE. Residential magnetic field exposure and breast cancer risk: a nested case-control study from a multiethnic cohort in Los Angeles County, California. Am J Epidemiol. 158(10):969-80, 2003.
  9. Schoenfeld ER, O’Leary ES, Henderson K, Grimson R, Kabat GC, Ahnn S, Kaune WT, Gammon MD, Leske MC; EBCLIS Group. Electromagnetic fields and breast cancer on Long Island: a case-control study. Am J Epidemiol. 158(1):47-58, 2003.
  10. Chen C, Ma X, Zhong M, Yu Z. Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields exposure and female breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis based on 24,338 cases and 60,628 controls. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 123(2):569-76, 2010. 

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