Although studies have consistently found an association between childhood leukaemia risk and magnetic fields, the associations between childhood leukaemia and distance to overhead power lines have been inconsistent. We pooled data from multiple studies to assess the association with distance and evaluate whether it is due to magnetic fields or other factors associated with distance from lines.


We present a pooled analysis combining individual-level data (29,049 cases and 68,231 controls) from 11 record-based studies.


There was no material association between childhood leukaemia and distance to nearest overhead power line of any voltage. Among children living < 50 m from 200 + kV power lines, the adjusted odds ratio for childhood leukaemia was 1.33 (95% CI: 0.92–1.93). The odds ratio was higher among children diagnosed before age 5 years. There was no association with calculated magnetic fields. Odds ratios remained unchanged with adjustment for potential confounders.


In this first comprehensive pooled analysis of childhood leukaemia and distance to power lines, we found a small and imprecise risk for residences < 50 m of 200 + kV lines that was not explained by high magnetic fields. Reasons for the increased risk, found in this and many other studies, remains to be elucidated.

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C.M.C. was also partially supported by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (grant P30 CA16042). The Italy1 study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute of Milan, in collaboration with Health Local Unit (ASL) of Varese Province and of Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA—Varese Province). The main collaborators were Crosignani P., Borgini A., Bertoldi M., Codazzi T., Bianchi N., Rovelli A. and Porro E. The Norwegian study was conducted by the Cancer Registry of Norway and supported by the Research Council of Norway. The UK study was supported by Children with Cancer UK; see original paper for other acknowledgements. The Tasmanian study was partly supported by the David Collins Leukaemia Foundation, the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust and the Royal Hobart Hospital Medical Research Foundation. Acknowledgements go to Ray Lowenthal, Konrad Jamrozik, Anne Piaszczyk and Jean Panton. The Brazilian study was conducted under the EMF Project-SP, P&D project, with resources allocated by the Brazilian Association for Electromagnetic Compatibility (ABRICEM), and performed at the University of São Paulo School of Public Health. Italy2 was supported by the non-profit Associazione Sostegno Oncologia Ematologia Pediatrica (ASOEP). This work was supported by the Electric Power Research Institute.

Author information


  1. Department of Epidemiology, University of California Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1772, USA

    • Aryana T Amoon
    • , Megha Bhatnagar
    • , Madhuri Sudan
    • , Ximena Vergara
    •  & Leeka Kheifets
  2. Department of Biostatistics, University of California Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1772, USA

    • Catherine M Crespi
  3. Unit of Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

    • Anders Ahlbom
    •  & Maria Feychting
  4. Department of Health and Social Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK

    • Isabelle Bray
  5. National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7LF, UK

    • Kathryn J Bunch
  6. Epidemiology of Childhood and Adolescent Cancers, CRESS, INSERM, UMR 1153, Paris Descartes University, Villejuif, France

    • Jacqueline Clavel
    • , Denis Hémon
    •  & Fabienne Marquant
  7. National Registry of Childhood Cancers - Hematological Malignancies, Villejuif, France

    • Jacqueline Clavel
  8. The Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Strandboulevarden 49, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Christoffer Johansen
    • , Camilla Pedersen
    •  & Ole Raaschou-Nielsen
  9. Oncology Clinic, Finsen Center, Rigshospitalet 5073, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Christoffer Johansen
  10. Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

    • Christian Kreis
    •  & Ben D Spycher
  11. Research Center of Environmental (CREAGEN), Genetic and Nutritional Epidemiology University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy

    • Carlotta Malagoli
    •  & Marco Vinceti
  12. Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000, Roskilde, Denmark

    • Ole Raaschou-Nielsen
  13. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland

    • Martin Röösli
  14. University of Basel, Petersgraben 1, Basel, Switzerland

    • Martin Röösli
  15. Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

    • Madhuri Sudan
  16. College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA, 91766-1854, USA

    • Madhuri Sudan
  17. National Grid, London, UK

    • John Swanson
  18. Cancer Registry Unit, National Cancer Institute, Milan, 20133, Italy

    • Andrea Tittarelli
  19. School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia

    • Deirdre M Tuck
  20. Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, TAS, Australia

    • Deirdre M Tuck
  21. Department of Occupational Health Surveillance, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway

    • Tore Tynes
  22. Energy and Environment Sector, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA, 94304, USA

    • Ximena Vergara
  23. Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

    • Marco Vinceti
  24. Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, 01246-904, Brazil

    • Victor Wünsch-Filho


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A.T.A. and C.K. did the analyses and drafted the manuscript. L.K., J.S. and X.V. conceived of the work. L.K. designed the study, acquired data and had a key role in interpreting the results. M.S. and M.B. helped collect, organise and clean the data. Everyone else provided data. All authors had a role in interpretation of results, revised the manuscript, approved the final version and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Competing interests

M.F. is vice chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an independent body setting guidelines for non-ionizing radiation protection. She serves as advisor to a number of national and international public advisory and research steering groups concerning the potential health effects of exposure to non-ionizing radiation. J.S. worked on this project as part of his employment by National Grid but no approval for the conduct of the study or the contents of the paper was necessary or sought from anyone else in National Grid. X.V. is an employee of the Electric Power Research Institute. M.V. is a paid consultant for two private multi-utility companies: IREN and HERA. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

The study was approved by University of California, Los Angeles Office of the Human Research Protection Program.

Availability of data and materials

The data that supports the findings of this study are available from individual study centres, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are, however, available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of local ethics committees and/or other constraints.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Leeka Kheifets.

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