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Occupational exposures to magnetic fields and neurodegenerative disease risks

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Commentary on the paper by Sorahan and Kheifets (see page 820)

Collectively, the major neurodegenerative diseases—Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease—represent a substantial public health burden throughout the world. The vast majority of cases of these disorders are non-familial. Thus, if only by default, it can reasonably be assumed that lifestyle and environmental factors are aetiologically relevant. Unfortunately, epidemiological research has yielded very few clues regarding modifiable risk factors.

During the past 20 years, there have been numerous epidemiological studies that have examined risks for these disorders in relation to aspects of electrical work: electric shocks and magnetic fields. These studies have been of various designs, including population-based case-control studies, follow-up studies of defined occupational cohorts, population-wide census linkage studies, and death certificate surveys. The pattern of evidence that has emerged can best be characterised as mixed, and at most suggestive of aetiological associations. To date, the most consistent results have been observed for electric shocks and magnetic fields with increased risks for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the main form of motor neurone disease.1 However, the evidence is by no means …

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