Thailand Leukemia Study


To document the relationship of cellular telephone use and other factors to the risk of adult leukemia in Thailand. Cellphones are commonly used in Thailand and other Asian countries, but most research on adverse health effects has taken place in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to the main hypothesis, other factors of particular interest include pesticides, solvents, and exposure to electromagnetic frequency radiation (EMF).


The study is of a case-control design. Patients who were at least 18 years of age and admitted to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok with recently diagnosed leukemia were eligible for inclusion. Siriraj is the largest hospital in Bangkok and a major referral center; eligibility was restricted to patients who reside in the Bangkok region (although some cases from outside the area were also enrolled). Up to four hospital controls, selected on the basis of diagnoses judged to be generally unrelated to exposure to potential risk factors for leukemia, were matched to each interviewed case according to age and sex. To allow for different referral patterns, controls for patients in the private wards at Siriraj, who tend to be of high socioeconomic status, were enrolled from Dhonburi Hospital , a nearby private institution. Data collection, by personal interview in the hospital, began in April 1997 and continued through February 2003.

The information obtained in the interviews included demographic details, residential and occupational history, occupational exposure to solvents, pesticides, other chemicals, and radiation, EMF exposure at work and home, a detailed history of cellular telephone use, medical history, a limited history of medication use, and exposure to other factors such as tobacco, alcohol, and hair dyes.

This project was conducted on a modest scale with local sources of support. The data will allow for a detailed exploration of the relationship between cellular telephone use and leukemia, which has been postulated due to the large amount of cell producing bone marrow in the skull bones. It will be possible to control confounding by other known and suspected risk factors for leukemia, as well as to evaluate their independent contribution to the risk. In addition to a combined group of all types of leukemia, individual cell types will be evaluated separately where numbers permit. Analyses of the full dataset, containing 180 leukemia cases and 756 controls, have been completed.

David Kaufman, Sc.D., Principal Investigator
Surapol Issaragrisil, M.D., Co-Principal Investigator

Source of Funding:

Local funds in Thailand

Study Period:

January 1997 to December 2003