ICNIRP/WHO/BfS International Workshop on
Risk Factors for Childhood Leukemia
Berlin, Germany, 5-7 May 2008
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----> ICNIRP/WHO/BfS Workshop on Risk Factors for Childhood Leukemia, Berlin, 5-7 May 2008, Proceedings published and available online at Radiation Protection Dosimetry 132(2); Dec 2008.

The increased incidence of childhood leukemia observed in epidemiological studies at low-level magnetic fields or near nuclear facilities is puzzling experts in radiation protection. The findings will be considered in the light of other possible risk factors and of new data on the complex origin of childhood leukemia in the upcoming workshop on “Risk Factors for Childhood Leukemia”.

The international workshop, called by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, ICNIRP, the World Health Organization, WHO, and the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, BfS, was held in Berlin, Germany, May 5 to 7, 2008.

Proceedings of the ICNIRP/WHO/BfS Workshop, Berlin 5-7 May 2008, published at Radiation Protection Dosimetry. ----> online papers.

Participants and speakers at the Workshop may have access to the restricted area by contacting us at info@icnirp.org.

Scope of the Workshop

Childhood leukemia is a heterogeneous disease and the most common malignancy in children accounting for around one third of all childhood cancer cases below the age of 15 years. The causes of most leukemias are still unknown, but both genetic and environmental factors have been implicated in the aetiology of the disease.

Ionizing radiation is regarded as an established environmental risk factor, found in epidemiological studies and confirmed by experimental data. At the same time data on an increased incidence of childhood leukemia near nuclear facilities are puzzling experts, because the exposures in relation to the case numbers are too low to be considered causal.

Non-ionizing radiation has been studied as a possible risk factor since more than 30 years. No carcinogenic potential of low-level fields (levels below ICNIRP recommendations) has been revealed in experimental studies. However, a consistent pattern of a two-fold increase in childhood leukemia is observed in epidemiological studies associated with average exposure to residential low-frequency magnetic fields above 0,3-0,4 µT. The epidemiological evidence is weakened by methodological limitations and no accepted or even plausible biophysical mechanism challenging the crucial question of causal relationship are currently available.

The apparent inconsistencies between empirical findings and the lack of supportive experimental data have to be considered in the light of other possible risk factors and of new data on the complex origin of childhood leukemia. A number of recent studies supports the hypothesis that initiation of the disease arises prenatally and that exposures before birth or early in life and/or an abnormal immune response play an important role in its further manifestation.

The international workshop will bring together experts from different disciplines and backgrounds in order to summarize the current knowledge on all known risk factors and the recent hypothesis on the aetiology of childhood leukemia. The workshop is intended to help the organizers and other experts in radiation protection to assess the statistical associations observed frequently or consistently at low dose/low level areas in epidemiological studies.