Baaken D, Dechent D, Blettner M, Drießen S, Merzenich H. Occupational Exposure to Extremely Low-Frequency Magnetic Fields and Risk of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Results of a Feasibility Study for a Pooled Analysis of Original Data. Bioelectromagnetics. 2021 Mar 25. doi: 10.1002/bem.22335. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33764559.
Previous meta-analyses have suggested an increased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) associated with occupational exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF). However, results should be interpreted with caution since studies were methodologically heterogeneous. Here, we assessed the feasibility of a pooling study to harmonize and re-analyze available original data. A systematic literature search was conducted. Published epidemiological studies were identified in PubMed and EMF-Portal from literature databases’ inception dates until January 2019. The characteristics of all studies were described, including exposure metrics, exposure categories, and confounders. A survey among the principal investigators (PI) was carried out to assess their willingness to provide their original data. The statistical power of a pooling study was evaluated. We identified 15 articles published between 1997 and 2019. Studies differed in terms of outcome, study population, exposure assessment, and exposure metrics. Most studies assessed ELF-MF as average magnetic flux density per working day; however, exposure categories varied widely. The pattern of adjustment for confounders was heterogeneous between studies, with age, sex, and socioeconomic status being most frequent. Eight PI expressed their willingness to provide original data. A relative risk of ≥1.14 for ALS and occupational exposure to ELF-MF can be detected with a power of more than 80% in a pooled study. The pooling of original data is recommended and could contribute to a better understanding of ELF-MF in the etiology of ALS based on a large database and reduced heterogeneity due to a standardized analysis protocol with harmonized exposure metrics and exposure categories. Bioelectromagnetics. © 2021 Bioelectromagnetics Society.