Brit boffins debunk 'magnetic field and cancer' link

Another mobes-kill-you theory bites the dust

University of Manchester researchers reckon they've eliminated one of the mechanisms that might have linked mobile phones to cancer.

The research is also bad news for those who think power lines are cancer-carriers.

Dr Alex Jones in the University's School of Chemistry led a team examining whether weak magnetic fields affected flavoproteins. Since this protein class handles DNA repair, among other things, it was a favourite candidate for those who believed that the weak magnetic fields associated with phones and power lines are dangerous to health.

The research, to appear in the Royal Society journal Interface, was unable to observe any reaction involving flavoproteins that would occur in the human body.

In the university's media release, Dr Jones explains that one of the roles of flavoproteins is to transfer electrons from one place to another. These are referred to as electron transfer flavoproteins, and their activities assist in processes like oxidation.

The electron transfer process involves the creation of chemicals called radical pairs, and these had been put forward as a mechanism by which weak magnetic fields might interact with cells – but no dice. While maintaining the scientific bet-hedging that prevents a categorical statement, Dr Jones says the research “suggests the correct conditions for biochemical effects of WMFs are likely to be rare in the human body”. ®

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