Ask the Vet with Michael O. Childress, DVM

Circle City Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital, Indianapolis

QuestionThe walking path that I take my dog on every day is right by high-tension wires. I’ve heard that exposure to areas like that can cause cancer. Is this true?

AnswerThe answer to the question is complex, and still not entirely sorted out by the scientific community. High tension wires and other electrical infrastructure (e.g. electric transformers) produce electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Some studies suggest living in close proximity to high-tension wires increases the risk for leukemia in children. It is hypothesized that the EMFs produced by the wires may contribute to the development of Leukemia. I am also aware of a single study in dogs showing a very small increase in the risk for lymphoma with chronic exposure to EMFs from power lines. However, the research in this area is inconclusive, with many studies showing little to no increase in the risk of cancer with long-term EMF exposure.

The bottom line is: Unless you are camping out under the high-tension wires 24-7, I think that you and your dog are probably at very low risk for developing any type of cancer due to EMF exposure. Simply walking next to high tension wires for a few minutes of every day is probably too infrequent an exposure and too low of a daily dose to be of concern. If you are still concerned, you could reduce your risk even by taking a different walking route a few times per week.

Dr. Michael ChildressAbout the Vet:

Dr. Michael Childress, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology), received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, VA in 2004. He became a board-certified veterinary oncologist in 2010. Dr. Childress has served as a faculty member with Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine since 2009. He has a special interest in the treatment of canine lymphoma.

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