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EMF Study
(Database last updated on Aug 8, 2020)

ID Number 856
Study Type Epidemiology
Model 500 kHz - 1.7 MHz AM broadcast tower exposure to residents (adults and children) in Korea and correlation with cancer

Korean adults living within 2 km from ten different AM radio broadcasting towers were analyzed for leukemia, malignant lymphoma, brain tumor and breast cancer incidence. Towers transmitted between 100 - 500 kW. Cancer incidence was calculated using information from Korean Medical Insurance data (Nov 1993 to Oct 1996). Initial studies reported one area with a significant increase in leukemia and another area showing a significant increase in brain tumor as compared to control areas. When all 10 areas were analyzed together, however, there was no overall increase in leukemia or brain tumor incidence. There was no increase in malignant lymphoma or breast cancer incidence in the exposed areas. Collective all cancer mortality, however, was significantly higher in the exposed areas [OR =1.29, 95%CI=1.12 1.49]. When each exposed area was analyzed individually, OR showed statistically significant increases although there was no obvious dose response with increasing power (100 W vs. 200 W vs. 500 W towers). Leukemia mortality was also higher in exposed areas (OR=1.70, 95% CI=0.84 3.45), especially among young adults aged under 30 years (0-14 year age group, OR = 2.29, 95% CI 1.05-5.98; 15-29 age group OR = 2.44, 95% CI 1.07-5.24). The authors conclude that their observations of increased mortality rates for all cancers and leukemia in some age groups near the AM radio broadcasting towers calls for further analytical studies on this topic in Korea. In a subsequent study, cases of childhood leukemia (n = 1928) and childhood brain tumor (n = 956) were evaluated for residental proximity to RF from several tower sites using the Korean Cancer Registry and Korean National Health Insurance Data (1991-1999). The authors report a correlation with all types of leukemia (OR = 2.15, 95% CI 1.00-4.67) within 2 km of nearest AM radio transmitter for at least 1 yr prior to diagnosis, although not when lymphocytic leukemia was evaluated separately (OR = 1.69; 95% CI 0.69- 3.72). When the predicted field strength was used instead of distance, however, there was no association for all types of leukemia (OR = 0.83, 95% CI = 0.63-1.08) but an increase for lymphocytic leukemia in the highest exposure quartile (> 0.6 V/m; OR = 1.40; 95% CI 1.04-1.88). No correlation was found with brain tumors. The authors suggest RF may act as a promoter for cancer.

Findings Effects
Status Completed With Publication
Principal Investigator Univ College Medicine, Chungju, Korea
Funding Agency MIC Korea, ETRI, Korea
  • Ha, M et al. Am J Epidemiol, (2007) 166:270-279
  • Park, SK et al. Int Arch Occup Environ Health, (2004) 77:387-394
  • Ha, M et al. Arch Environ Health, (2003) 58:756-762
  • Ha, M et al. Korean J Occup Environ Med., (2001) 13:296-305
  • Comments

    In the study on adults living around the ten different tower sites, the majority of the tower areas showed no cancer incidence, only two of ten sites were reported to have an increase in any type of cancer. The report of increased mortality from all cancer types combined in the Proceedings of the Korean Electromagnetic Engineering Society is difficult to interpret as no single cancer type, except leukemia in the 14 yr & younger group, was reported to be increased with RF exposure. Further, no dose response data was available for support of a causative effect. The study in children from the same region is currently ongoing