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Study: Leukemia risk no higher near power lines

Power lines July 2, 1997
Web posted at: 6:38 p.m. EDT (2238 GMT)

BETHESDA, Maryland (CNN) -- Children exposed to electromagnetic fields by living near electrical power lines are not more susceptible to developing leukemia, a study released Wednesday shows.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, affecting about 2,000 children each year and killing 30 percent of them. Doctors know it can be caused by exposure to conventional radiation, but, otherwise, the cause of the disease is unknown.

CNN's Al Hinman reports from Bethesda, Maryland
icon 2 min., 6 sec. VXtreme streaming video

The new findings from the National Cancer Institute are published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers hope they calm fears that arose in 1979 when some scientists found a connection between cancer and the fields given off by power lines and electrical appliances.

More than a dozen studies have been done in the last 18 years in an attempt to prove or disprove the suspected link.

"Our study, overall, shows no evidence of an increased risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia at residential magnetic-field levels experienced by most children in this country," said Dr. Martha Linet, who led the study team.

Power lines

The study, which was financed by the NCI and University of Minnesota's Children's Cancer Institute, looked at 638 children with leukemia and compared their living condition with those of 620 youngsters without cancer.

Unlike past studies, the new research directly measured electromagnetic fields in the home and in past residences where a child had lived. Other studies simply estimated a child's exposure.

Researchers also checked to see if the mother had lived near power lines when she was pregnant.

In an editorial, Journal of Medicine Deputy Editor Edward Campion said the new findings should put the controversy over power lines and childhood leukemia to rest.

"In recent years, several commissions and expert panels have concluded that there is no convincing evidence that high-voltage power lines are a health hazard or a cause of cancer," he said.

Correspondent Al Hinman and Reuters contributed to this report.

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