Recent Biological Studies Relevant to Carcinogenesis

  • N. A. Cridland
  • Z. J. Sienkiewicz
  • C. I. Kowalczuk
  • R. D. Saunders

Summary There is no convincing evidence that ELF electric or magnetic fields cause genetic damage and it is therefore extremely unlikely that they could have any effect on the initiation of cancer. It is generally accepted that if these fields do affect carcinogenesis it is likely to be at the level of promotion. This possibility has been investigated at the cellular and subcellular levels, principally by exploring the possibility that cell signalling pathways may be affected leading to increased cellular proliferation. Many of these studies have centred on changes in calcium signalling, whilst others have followed the signalling pathways to the nucleus and examined the expression of proto-oncogenes known to be involved in regulating cellular behaviour. Possible effects on cellular proliferation have been assessed directly and animal carcinogenesis models have been employed to assess the potential for electromagnetic fields to act as promoting agents. Overall, the available experimental evidence remains contradictory and does not provide a clear indication that electromagnetic fields affect tumour promotion. Further studies are required to clarify the situation with respect to putative effects on cellular processes.

There is limited recent evidence suggesting that ELF fields may act as co-promoters, essentially enhancing the effects of chemical tumour promoters, possibly via an effect on cell-cell communication. These studies are, however, at best preliminary, and will need to be both repeated and extended before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

Exposure to electric or magnetic fields has, under some circumstances, been reported to inhibit the night-time synthesis of melatonin, which may have effects on the growth of certain tumours, and this has therefore been suggested as a route by which electromagnetic fields could influence tumour promotion. However, this effect has not always been successfully replicated, and it is possible that the reported changes in melatonin are more attributable to the way the samples are collected, stored or analyzed than exposure to electromagnetic fields. Overall, the link between exposure to electromagnetic fields and depression of melatonin levels must remain tentative. Effects mediated by endogenous opioids have been postulated, but have not been demonstrated.

It has been suggested that ELF magnetic fields could affect tumour progression via a suppression of the immune system. There is, however, very little evidence for effects on the immune system and the positive results which have been reported are tentative and do not appear to have been independently replicated.

There is no convincing new evidence that athermal exposure to RF induces genetic damage and thus exposure is unlikely to initiate carcinogenesis. The evidence for effects on ion pumps or cell proliferation, which could constitute a mechanism for influencing tumour promotion, is extremely limited. There is no new convincing evidence that RF irradiation can affect tumour progression.


Magnetic Field Pineal Gland Pulse Magnetic Field Melatonin Level Magnetic Field Effect 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. A. Cridland
    • 1
  • Z. J. Sienkiewicz
    • 1
  • C. I. Kowalczuk
    • 1
  • R. D. Saunders
    • 1
  1. 1.NRPB ChiltonDidcotUK

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