EMF Health-effects Research

Cancer incidence near radio and television transmitters in Great Britain. I. Sutton Coldfield transmitter

Dolk H, Shaddick G, Walls P, Grundy C, Thakrar B, Kleinschmidt I, Elliott P,

Am J Epidemiol 145(1):1-9, 1997

A small area study of cancer incidence in 1974-1986 was carried out to investigate an unconfirmed report of a "cluster" of leukemias and lymphomas near the Sutton Coldfield television (TV) and frequency modulation (FM) radio transmitter in the West Midlands, England.

The study used a national database of postcoded cancer registrations, and population and socioeconomic data from the 1981 census. Selected cancers were hematopoietic and lymphatic, brain, skin, eye, male breast, female breast, lung, colorectal, stomach, prostate, and bladder.

Expected numbers of cancers in small areas were calculated by indirect standardization, with stratification for a small area socioeconomic index. The study area was defined as a 10 km radius circle around the transmitter, within which 10 bands of increasing distance from the transmitter were defined as a basis for testing for a decline in risk with distance, and an inner area was arbitrarily defined for descriptive purposes as a 2 km radius circle.

The risk of adult leukemia within 2 km was 1.83 (95% confidence interval 1.22-2.74), and there was a significant decline in risk with distance from the transmitter (p = 0.001).

These findings appeared to be consistent over the periods 1974-1980, 1981-1986, and were probably largely independent of the initially reported cluster, which appeared to concern mainly a later period. In the context of variability of leukemia risk across census wards in the West Midlands as a whole, the Sutton Coldfield findings were unusual. A significant decline in risk with distance was also found for skin cancer, possibly related to residual socioeconomic confounding, and for bladder cancer.

Study of other radio and TV transmitters in Great Britain is required to put the present results in wider context. No causal implications can be made from a single cluster investigation of this kind.

Additional Web Notes

This is the first of the Dolk studies. The second failed to support these findings strongly. See also the second.

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