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Occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields and sex-differential risk of uveal melanoma
  1. Thomas Behrens1,
  2. Elsebeth Lynge2,
  3. Ian Cree3,
  4. Svend Sabroe4,
  5. Jean-Michel Lutz5,
  6. Noemia Afonso6,
  7. Mikael Eriksson7,
  8. Pascal Guénel8,9,
  9. Franco Merletti10,
  10. Maria Morales-Suarez-Varela11,12,13,
  11. Aivars Stengrevics14,
  12. Joëlle Févotte15,
  13. Agustin Llopis-González11,13,
  14. Giuseppe Gorini16,
  15. Galina Sharkova17,
  16. Lennart Hardell7,
  17. Wolfgang Ahrens1
  1. 1Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, Bremen, Germany
  2. 2Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. 3Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
  5. 5Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, National Institute for Cancer Epidemiology and Registration (NICER), ISPM Zürich, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  6. 6Serviço de Oncologia Médica, Instituto Portugues de Oncologia - Porto, Porto, Portugal
  7. 7Department of Oncology, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden
  8. 8INSERM Unité 754, Villejuif Cedex, France
  9. 9University Paris-Sud 11, Orsay, France
  10. 10Unit of Cancer Epidemiology, University of Turin, CERMS and CPO, Piemonte, Italy
  11. 11Unit of Public Health and Environmental Care, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  12. 12Research Foundation, University Hospital Dr. Peset, Valencia, Spain
  13. 13Research Group CIBER CB06/02/0045, CIBER Actions - Epidemiology and Public Health, Spain
  14. 14Latvia Cancer Registry, Riga, Latvia
  15. 15Institut de Veille Sanitaire (InVS), Département Santé-Travail (DST), Saint-Maurice, France
  16. 16Epidemiology and Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology Unit - ISPO Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, Florence, Italy
  17. 17Department of Oncology, P. Stradin's Clinical University Hospital, Riga, Latvia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Behrens, Linzer Str. 10, Bremen 28359, Germany; behrens{at}


Objectives The association between occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and the risk of uveal melanoma was investigated in a case–control study in nine European countries.

Methods Incident cases of uveal melanoma and population as well as hospital controls were included and frequency matched by country, 5-year birth cohort and sex. Subjects were asked whether they had worked close to high-voltage electrical transmission installations, computer screens and various electrical machines, or in complex electrical environments. Measurements of two Scandinavian job–exposure matrices were applied to estimate lifelong cumulative EMF exposure. Unconditional logistic regression analyses, stratified by sex and eye colour were calculated, adjusting for several potential confounders.

Results 293 patients with uveal melanoma and 3198 control subjects were interviewed. Women exposed to electrical transmission installations showed elevated risks (OR 5.81, 95% CI 1.72 to 19.66). Positive associations with exposure to control rooms were seen among men and women, but most risk increases were restricted to subjects with dark iris colour. Application of published EMF measurements revealed stronger risk increases among women compared to men. Again, elevated risks were restricted to subjects with dark eye colour.

Conclusion Although based on a low prevalence of exposure to potential occupational sources of EMF, our data indicate that exposed dark-eyed women may be at particular risk for uveal melanoma.

  • Epidemiology
  • cancer
  • ophthalmology
  • retrospective exposure assessment
  • non-ionising radiation

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  • Funding Funding was supplied by the European Commission, DGXII, BIOMED research programme grants no BMH1 CT 93-1630 and ERB CIPD CT 940285, and the following national funding agencies. Denmark: The Strategic Environment Programme, grant no; the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre whose activities are financed by a grant from the Danish National Research Foundation. France: Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer, Fédération Nationale des Centres de Lutte contre le Cancer, Fondation de France, contract no 955368; Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) contract Réseau en Santé Publique no 4R006A; French Ministry of the Environment, contract no Germany: Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology (BMBF), grant no 01-HP-684/8. Italy: The Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC), Special Project Oncology, Compagnia di San Paolo/FIRMS, MURST, Piedmont Region. Spain: Fondo de Investigación de la Sanitarie, Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo, Unidad de Investigación Clinico-Epidemiológica, Hospital Dr. Peset, Generalitat Valenciana (FISS. 95/0044-01, 96/0043-01); Departmento de Sanidad y Consumo, Gobierno Vasco; Fondo de Investigación de la Sanitaria, Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo, Ayuda a la Investigación del Departamento de Salud del Gobierno de Navarra. Sweden: Swedish Council for Work Life Research; Research Foundation of the Department of Oncology in Umeå; Swedish Society of Medicine; Lund University Hospital Research Foundation; Gunnar, Arvid and Elisabeth Nilsson Cancer Foundation; Örebro County Council Research Committee, Örebro Medical Center Research Foundation; John and Augusta Persson Foundation for Scientific Medical Research; Berta Kamprad Foundation for Cancer Research.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the national ethics committees.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.