Epidemiologic and experimental research on the potential carcinogenic effects of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) has been performed for a long time. Epidemiologic studies regarding ELF-EMF-exposure have focused primarily on leukaemia development due to residential sources in children and adults, and from occupational exposure in adults, but also on other kinds of cancer. Genotoxic investigations of EMF have shown contradictory results, a biological mechanism is still lacking that can explain the link between cancer development and ELF-EMF-exposure. Recent laboratory research has attempted to show general biological effects, and such that could be related to cancer development and/or promotion. Metabolic processes which generate oxidants and antioxidants can be influenced by environmental factors, such as ELF-EMF. Increased ELF-EMF exposure can modify the activity of the organism by reactive oxygen species leading to oxidative stress. It is well established that free radicals can interact with DNA resulting in single strand breaks. DNA damage could become a site of mutation, a key step to carcinogenesis. Furthermore, different cell types react differently to the same stimulus, because of their cell type specific redox status. The modulation of cellular redox balance by the enhancement of oxidative intermediates, or the inhibition or reduction of antioxidants, is discussed in this review. An additional aspect of free radicals is their function to influence other illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. On the other hand, modulation of antioxidants by ELF-EMF can lower the intracellular defence activity promoting the development of DNA damage. It has also been demonstrated that low levels of reactive oxygen species trigger intracellular signals that involve the transcription of genes and leading to responses including cell proliferation and apoptosis. In this review, a general overview is given about oxidative stress, as well as experimental studies are reviewed as they are related to changes in oxidant and antioxidant content after ELFEMF exposure inducing different biological effects. Finally, we conclude from our review that modulations on the oxidant and antioxidant level through ELF-EMF exposure can play a causal role in cancer development.
Division of Environmental Physiology, Department of Cell Biology and Biosystems Technology, University of Rostock, Albert-Einstein-Straße 3, D-18057 Rostock, Germany.
Publication date: April 1, 2007
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