7th February 2014 – Children who spend their early years close to overhead power lines are not at greater risk of developing childhood leukaemia, according to a new research.
An earlier study using information on childhood leukaemia diagnosed in England and Wales between 1962 and 1995 had suggested that there was an elevated risk for children born within 600 metres of overhead power lines.
Now researchers from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford and Lancaster Medical School at the University of Lancaster have included children diagnosed with leukaemia in England, Scotland and Wales up until 2008.
The research used information on 16,457 children diagnosed with leukaemia whose details were recorded in the National Registry of Childhood Tumours. Children with leukaemia were matched against those children who did not have the disease.
For each case, the scientists calculated the distance between the mother's home at the time of birth and the nearest high voltage power line.
The researchers conclude that children born after the 1980s do not have an increased risk of developing leukaemia.
The authors of the study, published in The British Journal of Cancer, say this strongly suggests that there is no direct biological effect of power lines on the risk of getting leukaemia. They say the previous findings could be explained by "changing population characteristics" of people living near power lines, or could be down to chance or problems with the way the study was conducted.
The study was funded by Children with Cancer UK.
'Very encouraging' findings
Kathryn Bunch, lead author on the study, says in a statement: "It’s very encouraging to see that in recent decades there has been no increased risk of leukaemia among children born near overhead power lines. More research is needed to determine precisely why previous evidence suggested a risk prior to 1980, but parents can be reassured from the findings of this study that overhead power lines don’t increase their child’s risk of leukaemia."
In a statement, Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, says: "There has been a lot of concern that overhead power lines could increase the risk of cancer, particularly leukaemia, in children. This study is reassuring for anxious parents, as it indicates that overhead power lines don’t cause leukaemia or other cancers in children."
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