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Report on a cancer cluster in an antenna ranges facility

Authors:

Abstract

A cancer cluster which occurred among young workers in an antenna ranges facility is reported. Five out of about 30 workers were diagnosed with cancer. The calculated odds ratio (OR) was 8.3 with confidence interval (CI 95%) of 2.3 to 19. Since this is a single cluster no definite conclusions can be drawn from it by itself, however together with other similar cases reported elsewhere it tends to indicate a severe cancer risk for groups of young people exposed repetitively and over years to non-ionizing radio-frequency radiation at levels limited only by the ICNIRP thermal limits.
Report on a Cancer Cluster in an Antenna Ranges Facility
Michael Peleg
michaelp@rafael.co.il, Rafael Ltd. Haifa, Israel
Abstract A cancer cluster which occurred among young
workers in an antenna ranges facility is reported. Five out of
about 30 workers were diagnosed with cancer. The calculated
Odds Ratio (OR) was 8.3 with Confidence Interval (CI 95%) of
2.3 to 19. Since this is a single cluster no definite conclusions can
be drawn from it by itself, however together with other similar
cases reported elsewhere it tends to indicate a severe cancer risk
for groups of young people exposed repetitively and over years to
non-ionizing radio-frequency radiation at levels limited only by
the ICNIRP thermal limits.
Index Terms Cancer, non-ionizing radiation, radio, RADAR,
occupational, military.
I. INTRODUCTION
The possibility of carcinogenic influence of non-ionizing
radiation has been studied in various settings and statistically
significant findings which indicate the carcinogenic influence
have been reported in numerous papers. Some interesting
examples are Hardell [1], Sadetzki [2], Lonn [3] and
references within in the setting of mobile phones and
Szmigielski[4] and Richter [5] in the occupational military
setting. Various possible cancer-inducing mechanisms were
studied, see for example Korenstein et. al. [6] and its
references. The questions of carcinogenic influence and of
safe radiation levels have not been resolved yet and the
uncertainty drives differences of many orders of magnitude in
radiation levels considered to be safe by regulators in different
countries. Important radiation levels limits valid at the
frequency of 1 GHz and presented here in microwatts/cm2 are
the ICNIRP occupational limit of 2000 used excessively,
including in the IDF [7], the Israeli non-ionizing radiation law
limit of 50, the limits of 3 to 10 used in Switzerland and Italy
and even a lower limit proposed in Lichtenstein. The
influences of additional factors such as frequency and Peak to
Average Power Ratio (PAPR), which can be extremely high in
RADAR applications, are yet to be determined. Progress
toward resolving these important and difficult questions can
be facilitated by extensive research and by evaluating the
information already available on this topic. Thus rendering all
the relevant data open to the scientific community is essential.
To this end this paper reports the details of a cluster of cancer
cases which occurred in an antenna ranges facility. The data is
supportive of the carcinogenetic hypotheses. As it is not
possible to draw conclusions based on a single cluster, the
main contribution of this paper is presenting the data which
may be used together with other sources to achieve progress.
This paper is presented in an engineering conference since in
the absence of established universal safe radiation levels
engineers are frequently involved in tradeoffs between well
defined technical requirements and between radiation risks the
quantitative evaluation of which awaits the results of the
ongoing worldwide research.
II. THE FACTS
The cancer cluster occurred in an antenna ranges facility in
Rafael in the years 1982 to 1995. The site was distinct by
frequent and long term exposure to diverse forms of radio-
frequency non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. The
exposure was controlled to be within the then legal ICNIRP
limits.
Five young workers working at the site were diagnosed with
cancer. The information was collected by interviews and the
basic medical facts such as cancer diagnosis, date of diagnosis
and age were verified by the company physician based on the
workers medical records.
The ages at diagnosis were: 34, 36, 39, 40, and 48. Periods of
time in years which each of the above workers spent at the site
before diagnosis were approximately: 11 (most of them on
the exact site), 8, 3, 9 and 17 respectively.
The cancer types diagnosed, listed here out of order, were
leukemia, plasmacytoma of the nasopharyx, breast cancer,
lymphoma and cancer of the larynx.
The diagnosed workers lived in various towns and villages
within about 40 kilometers from the workplace, were not
relatives of each other and their professional background
varied from technician to PhD. Their only common factor the
author is aware of, apart of profession in the general area of
electronics, is the particular working site.
The total number of workers, denoted by N, who worked at
the site for more for than 2 years during the relevant period of
about 15 years till 1995 was estimated in 2002, by
interviewing workers in the relevant groups, to be between 20
to 50, best estimate is 30, almost surely not more than 40.
III. ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
The analysis presented here answers the two following
questions:
1. What was the Odds Ratio (OR) in the group of workers
being diagnosed with cancer up to the age of 40 and what is
the corresponding 95% Confidence Interval (CI 95%)? (OR is
the ratio of cancer risk of the studied group to that of the
general population or, equivalently, the number of cases
relative to that expected in normal population.)
2. What is the statistical p-value? That is:
If a group of N (20 to 50) people is chosen at random from the
general population what is the probability, denoted as Pt, that
at least 4 of them will be diagnosed with cancer up to the age
of 40 and at least one of them up to age of 60?
The cancer statistics for the general population used was that
of an USA registry:
Probability of the general population to be diagnosed with
cancer from birth to age 40: P1=0.016 (1.6%).
Probability of the general population to be diagnosed with first
cancer from age 41 to 60: P2=0.085 (8.5%).
Probability of the general population not to be diagnosed with
cancer from birth to age 60: P3=1-P1-P2.
The analysis is presented in the appendix. The results of the
analysis are a function of the number N of people who worked
at the site which was about 30 and could not be determined
exactly. The results are presented in table 1.
TABLE I
THE ANALYSIS RESULTS
N
25
30
35
40
50
Pt
(p-
value)
0.00054
1:1800
0.0012
1:860
0.0022
1:461
0.0036
1:275
0.0083
1:120
OR
(Odds
Ratio)
10
8.3
7.1
6.25
5
CI 95%
2.8
22.5
2.3 - 19
2
16.7
1.7
14.8
1.4 -
12
That is, for population size of N=30, the probability of this
occurring at random is 1:860, the odds ratio is 8.3 and its 95%
confidence interval is 2.3 to 19, thus the results are certainly
statistically significant.
There is a possibility of selection bias since this analysis was
performed on the affected group of workers. The combination
of population size N=30 and Pt=1:860 indicates that such a
cluster is expected to occur at random without causation by
radiation in about one group of 30 people in a population of
30 x 860=25800, that is once in every small town. Still the
results reported here are significant because the site was very
distinct by its radiation; there are only a few sites with this
exposure to radiation in one country. More importantly, there
are reports of similar cancer clusters in similar other radiation
affected sites in Israel as reported for example in [5] and [7].
The probability of all of them occurring at random is very
small.
Other possible causes of the cancer at the site were not
investigated, however no abnormal cancer cases are known
among people who worked nearby for many years, including
in an adjacent building and in other parts of the same building
with lower radiation exposure.
This analysis could be refined by using statistics with better
resolution than 20 years and by obtaining and incorporating
data about the ages of the exposed population and about the
specific cancers.
The process on unveiling the data reported here has interesting
characteristics. Two events had to happen to bring it to the
open literature. First, somebody had to become aware of the
abnormality. This happened years after the last case, due to an
unrelated event in the organization. The occurrence of such
group of cancer cases is not very obvious due to small number
of cases dispersed over many years, some occurring after the
affected people moved to other diverse locations. Second,
presenting this information in the open literature, while being
a clear obligation under the codes of ethics such as those of
Rafael and of the IEEE, still involves complex processes with
uncertain outcomes and cannot be taken for granted either.
Thus it is likely that many events of this kind are not reported.
IV. RELEVANCE OF THE MOBILE PHONE DATA
The personal cancer risk of 16% presented here and risks of a
similar order of magnitude reported in other cases in the
occupational and military setting such as in [4], [5] and [7] are
much higher than the personal risks reported in the mobile
phone setting [1], [2] and [3]. (Any risk in the mobile phone
setting is important because of the huge number of users.)
This section addresses qualitatively those differences.
The authors of [1] , [2] and [3] report tumor risks of heavy
mobile phone users increased by OR of 1.8 to 3.9 for organs
very near to the mobile phone and on the side of head the
phone is usually used on (ipsilateral). Heavy use means here
some combination of factors such as long period of use
(exceeding 5 or 10 years), many hours of weekly use, rural
areas and no use of headsets.
A worker exposed to the full extent of radiation permitted by
the ICNIRP limits suffers whole body radiation of intensity
roughly comparable to that produced within a few centimeters
from a mobile phone transmitting near its maximal power.
Thus OR of the worker suffering any cancer may be expected
roughly similar to the OR of cancer appearing in the organs in
close proximity to the mobile phone. Since the workers in the
antenna ranges were younger on the average then the
population in the mobile phone studies the OR ratio is
expected to be higher if the absolute risk is not very age-
dependent because of the lower baseline cancer risk in young
people. Thus the high OR reported in the antenna ranges
should be not surprising. As said above, this comparison is
qualitative only and no direct comparison between the
numbers is attempted due to many differences between the
studies including different populations, different methods of
data gathering and different frequencies and waveforms.
V. POSSIBLE PREVENTIVE ACTIONS
The concrete possibility of severe cancer risk caused by high
exposure to non-ionizing radiation in the occupational military
setting requires addressing complex problems in the areas of
engineering, medicine, ethics and more. The right solutions
will certainly not be provided by a single conference paper,
still, some elements which may be useful are listed here:
1. Set and implement safe radiation limits not exceeding
those used for the general population and adjust them
according to current research results. Furthermore, reduce
human exposure per setting below these limits as low as
feasible.
2. Control the peak power not to exceed the average power
limit by more than a specified factor such as 10. This may
be important especially in RADAR applications with high
PAPR. See the strong non-thermal biological effects of
extremely high PAPR (pulsed) waveforms in [8].
3. If there are exceptions, that is if some workers exposure
exceeds the above limits, by accident or by design due to
some extreme need, the exact quantitative description of
the exposure should be filed for each worker and the
health of the affected workers should be monitored for a
lifetime to gather the important information on health
effects and to enable fair assistance to the victims.
4. All relevant information, such as reported here, should be
shared openly; it is almost useless at the local level.
VI. CONCLUSIONS
A cancer cluster in an antenna ranges facility was reported.
The p-value and the odds ratio are statistically significant and,
together with similar cases reported elsewhere, support the
hypotheses of carcinogenic influence of non-ionizing radiation
and, more specifically, that of an extreme cancer risk when the
exposure is prolonged, repetitive and limited only by the
thermal ICNIRP limits. The 16% cancer incidence among a
group of young people over a period of about a decade
reported here serves as an example of the magnitude of this
possible risk. This study may contribute to more definite
conclusions when examined together with similar data
reported elsewhere, till then human radiation exposure should
be reduced deeply below the ICNIRP thermal limits.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The author wishes to thank the people involved in the
cancer cluster for their vital cooperation and to acknowledge
the very helpful discussions with Elihu Richter and Zamir
Shalita.
APPENDIX
The p-value, that is the probability Pt, is evaluated
conservatively. Each of the N workers is associated with a
statistical experiment with three possible outcomes: diagnosed
with cancer at age up to 40 years; diagnosed with cancer at
age in the range of 41 to 60; not diagnosed with cancer until
the age of 60. Pt is given by
where P is defined in [9] eq. (3-62) (generalized Bernoulli
trials) as:
11 1
( ; ... ; ... ) ! !
i
N
ki
kk ii
P
P N N N P P N N
where N is the number of experiments (population size in our
case), k is the number of possible, mutually exclusive,
outcomes (in our case k=3, the number of age groups at
diagnosis), Ni are the numbers of experiments with the
different outcomes (numbers of cancer cases in each age
group in our case), Pi are the probabilities of those outcomes
in the general population and ! denotes the factorial.
Since the statistics used were the general population
probabilities over whole lifetime and the actual observation
period was 10 to 20 years, the exact p-value is even lower
(more significant) then the one calculated here.
The odds ratio among the group of workers relative to the
general population of being diagnosed with cancer up to the
age of 40 is denoted by OR. Its 95% confidence interval CI
was computed along the lines presented in [10] while
conservatively disregarding the single worker diagnosed at
age over 40.
REFERENCES
[1] L. O. Hardell et al., “Long-term use of cellular phones and brain
tumors”, Occup. and Environm. Medicine 2007;64:626-632.
[2] S. Sadetzki et al., “Cellular Phone Use and Risk of Benign and
Malignant Parotid Gland TumorsA Nationwide Case-Control
Study,” American Journal of Epidemiology 2008 167(4):457-
467;.
[3] S. Lonn, A. Ahlbom, P. Hall, et al.: "Mobile phone use and the
risk of acoustic neuroma". Epidemiology 2004;15:6539
[4] S. Szmigielski "Cancer morbidity in subjects occupationally
exposed to high frequency (radiofrequency and microwave)
electromagnetic radiation", Sci Total Environ. 1996 Feb
2;180(1):9-17
[5] E. D. Richter et al. "Brain cancer with induction periods of less
than 10 years in young military radar workers", Archives of
Environmental Health, July-August, 2002
[6] M. Mashevich, D. Folkman, A. Kesar, A. Barbul, R. Korenstein,
E. Jerby and L. Avivi: "Exposure of Human Peripheral Blood
Lymphocytes to Electromagnetic Fields Associated With
Cellular Phones Leads to Chromosomal Instability",
Bioelectromagnetics 24:82-90 (2003)
[7] Section on the I.D.F. in The Israeli state comptroller report 52A,
2001
[8] Special Issue on Nonthermal Medical/Biological Treatments
Using Electromagnetic Fields and Ionized Gases, IEEE
Transactions on Plasma Science, Vol. 28, No. 1, Feb. 2000
[9] A. Papoulis: Probability, random variables and stochastic
processes, McGraw Hill, 1972
[10] http://www.medepi.org/epitools/ as in 2003
Copyright notice:
This paper was presented at the international IEEE COMCAS
2009 conference, Tel-Aviv, 9-11 Nov. 2009.
The copyright of this paper is that of the IEEE. This document
may not be used for any commercial purposes and may not be
offered for sale. The paper does not imply endorsement by the
IEEE or by Rafael Ltd.
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