LFN Phenomena, including the Hum and  increasing prevalence of Cancer: is there  or could there be a connection?  By Dr Chris Barnes Manager at Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants, Bangor, Gwynedd,  Wales, UK, LL 57 2TW. E-mail  manager@bsec-wales.co.uk    First released into public domain 1st December 2015. 



Categories of LFN and the Hum are briefly defined, discussed and distinguished from one another. All have common dominators in their potential to cause sleep disturbance but the Hum has additional facets.      The common denominator for sleep disturbance by LFN and electromagnetic  fields   is body melatonin depletion which is associated with increased cancer risk.   A further mechanism with LFN and infrasound is its potential to disrupt biological mechanical signalling processes and bring about sister chromatid exchange.  In other words ILFN could be a mutagen and also increase cancer risk.  There would thus seem to be a compelling connection between the Hum and Cancer.   Indeed in consideration of all the evidence presented here we cannot deny there is an association between the both LFN and cancer and perhaps an even stronger association between the Hum and cancer.  With LFN it is its ability to cause sleep disturbance and the infrasound which is harmful at a cellular level.  The Hum is a phenomenon or group of phenomena.  I conclude it is not the Hum per se which causes cancer but the associated acoustic and electromagnetic components     through both their    tendencies to disturb sleep and the action of electromagnetic  fields either directly on cellular biology  via possibly body magnetite interactions or  indirectly on melatonin levels.  The Hum is bound to appear  worse in association with cancer  than just LFN alone in  premises because it is a double edged sword  with regard to melatonin suppression    and additionally there is the compounding effect of air pollution.    


Thus to the scientifically  untrained mind it would be easy to conclude as some have done elsewhere   that it is solely the Hum  which accounts for recent explosions in cancer. This is a case of bi-phenomena  association but not direct causation.



Residential LFN phenomena fall broadly into three classes. Firstly, there are those which are found to have locatable sources within the afflicted building or premises. Such sources could include, for example but not exhaustively, things like    fridges and freezers, central heating systems, water hammer, chimney resonances etc.  Secondly,  there are those cases which have locatable sources nearby or reasonably nearby say in the same street, town or city, for example.   Such sources may include, for example but not limited to,  things like industrial fans, cooling towers, compressors, water and sewage pumps and the like.  Finally, there are those cases wherein the sources are apparently un-locatable  and have often also been un-recordable by means of traditional audio recording technology and these have been referred to as ‘the Hum’.  In many cases the symptoms of the Hum and the sounds perceived such as idling engine noises, throbbing, popping and pressure in the ears are  simply as those for Infrasound. However, there is clearly much more to the Hum than meets the eye and as evidenced by recent geographic studies it is far more than just a noise (Barnes) [1] and may be related to electrical power systems and domestic electricity earth connection scenarios.  


Common Denominators

Some LFN and the Hum have certain factors in common. Firstly, according to both personal experience and gathered anecdotal reports they are worse in the dead of  night. This is perhaps hardly surprising, firstly,  given the fact that there is generally less masking noise at night and secondly that there is less external vehicle movement which would otherwise disturb the coherence of any wave-fronts arriving from outside.  Whether or not a noise is actually any louder than a given reference is somewhat immaterial but if it is for any reason perceived as louder than earlier then to some extent it will have more tendency either to disturb sleep and/or to delay or prevent return to sleep after arousal. Thus one important common denominator which will need to be explored is if there is documented scientific evidence of sleep disturbance and cancer being associated.


LFN often has associated infrasound components.  Infrasound has been observed inside the homes of people who perceive Hum like noises. These days with the advent of wind farms there is generally far more infrasound in our environment.  This can propagate large distances under some conditions at night.  Despite advocates of renewable energy propagating the message that infrasound is completely safe  here is a known medical condition, so called VAD ( vibro-acoustic disease) which happens as a result of its repeated exposure, SEE ALVES-PEREIRA1 & Nuno Castelo BRANCO [3.]  Furthermore a Google Scholar search on the parameters   ‘Wind Turbine Infrasound Completely Safe’ throws up no results supporting this statement but many tens or even hundreds of papers urging caution.     


There are anecdotal reports of Hum sufferers feeling body tingling and vibration during outbreaks of the Hum in addition to the more usual aural effects of Infrasound.  The author has also first-hand experience of this.      We need therefore to explore if Infrasound, VAD and body vibration are also in any way related or scientifically correlated with cancer.


Additional Observations with the Hum

In addition to Infrasound and Acoustic noise, particularly at frequencies below 300 Hz [4]  there would appear to be anomalies or changes in the ELF electromagnetic    spectrum in houses which have the Hum as evidenced by both measurements of the author and those referred to in two major studies of American Hums.  In ELF fields, separate electric and magnetic field measurements are easily made.  Various authors, including the present, have established a link between renewable energy power systems and the Hum.    The use of such systems is known to both increase  THD ( total harmonic distortion)  as a  result of phase imbalance  and ground current injection. Related to ground currents in general are domestic electricity earthing  (grounding) systems and these strongly influence the way ELF electromagnetic fields are distributed in premises.


 Very recently indeed, the present author has cemented the link between the Hum and T-N grounding systems, especially PME.   Furthermore countries of the world which use T-T grounding   do not appear to have the Hum. In the case of PME grounding, stray fields and THD are accentuated when ground return currents flow in bonded gas and water pipes. 


In consideration of the question is the Hum any different or any worse than straight LFN in terms of cancer association/causation we need to pose the question are ELF magnetic and electric fields similarly associated? 


LFN the Hum, Sleep Disturbance and Cancer

Those afflicted by both LFN and the Hum often complain of sleep disturbance.  There is a huge body of evidence that night shift work increases the risk of various cancers, particularly those of the ‘hormonal’ group such as breast and prostate but also to a lesser extent bowel cancer. For example,  data suggest that working a rotating night shift at least three nights per month for 15 or more years may increase the risk of colorectal cancer in women, see Schernhammer, F Laden… - … the National Cancer …, 2003 - jnci.oxfordjournals.org. [5].

 Night shift work lowers levels of the nocturnal hormone   melatonin, a powerful anti-oxidant and cancero-static agent are reduced.   Blask ( 2004)  [6] has discussed general sleep disturbance and cancer from the perspective of reduced body melatonin levels. The pineal hormone melatonin is involved in the circadian regulation and facilitation of sleep, the inhibition of cancer development and growth, and the enhancement of immune function. Individuals, such as night shift workers, who are exposed to light at night on a regular basis experience biological rhythm (i.e., circadian) disruption including circadian phase shifts, nocturnal melatonin suppression, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, these individuals are not only immune suppressed, but they are also at an increased risk of developing a number of different types of cancer.  Blask further observed that there is a reciprocal interaction and regulation between sleep and the immune system quite independent of melatonin. Sleep disturbances can lead to immune suppression and a shift to the predominance in cancer-stimulatory cytokines.

Blask  mentions other studies which suggest that a shortened duration of nocturnal sleep is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer development. The relative individual contributions of  each sleep disturbance related biological mechanism i.e. , circadian disruption due to light at night exposure, and related impairments of melatonin production and immune function to the initiation and promotion of cancer in high-risk individuals such as night shift workers remain unknown.  Finally, Blask suggests that the mutual reinforcement of interacting circadian rhythms of melatonin production, the sleep/wake cycle and immune function may indicate a new role for undisturbed, high quality sleep, and perhaps even more importantly, uninterrupted darkness, as a previously unappreciated endogenous mechanism of cancer prevention. 


The present author thus suggests that in this latter  respect the modus operandi of sleep disturbance may be less important than the fact that  it occurs at all.   Undoubtedly, both LFN and the Hum have the ability to disturb sleep.  Furthermore the present author has provided independent evidence  by interpreting public domain cancer statistics to suggest that when night-time disturbances increase, cancer across the nation   does so also.  This has been highlighted by recent changes in pub licensing hours, see  my paper ‘Could changes in our pub licensing and pub smoking rules have altered cancer rates first up and then down?’(BARNES)[ 7] In that paper  I briefly discussed increasing cancer incidence rates in the UK in terms of Chernobyl and in terms of RF radiation as a promoter. Although Lauer has recently shown RF radiation to cause transient blips in cancer rates, I have established that larger cumulative  increases in the rate due to new RF sources are most probably due to the effects of lowered melatonin due to its sleep disrupting effects on the field sensitive pineal gland.  There will be also more night-time RF in cities since the pub changes due to enhanced mobile phone use and taxi radio emissions.  Naturally also one would expect melatonin reduction to be  caused by increases in  night light and night noise, both of which increased with increases in the UK Pub Licensing hours in 2001and 2005 respectively. The hypothesis that this would strongly impact UK short latency cancers was strongly supported in my paper with increases seen in the national rates after appropriate latency time periods.    On the positive side the new tobacco rules for pubs and other public places from 2007 was also seen to reduce some cancer incidence rates after their corresponding minimum latency periods.


I have previously shown  Malignant melanoma to have least correlation with melatonin (night light)  by using a world geographic meta-analysis method and it was ALSO borne out for the pub changes analysis by there being a significant increase in melanoma prior to the changes in the licensing laws and no significant change in the slope of the trend line after the changes in licensing hours for this cancer alone. Whereas those cancers which did correlate light and radio emissions ( the so –called RF cancers) in that study on the other hand significantly increased in incidence after all- night   pub licensing came into being. 


Sleep disturbance and disturbance to melatonin levels would appear to be more critically important than simply shortened sleeping hours.   Thus those disturbed by the Hum close to normal waking time are less likely to be at risk than those disturbed in the dead of night.  For example,  shortened sleeping hours  were only shown to be significant to reduced mortality amongst  a huge cohort when they fell to as little as 3.5 or 4 hours per night, see Kripke et al (2002)[8] who indeed also showed that it was just as dangerous to regularly exceed 8.5 hours sleep!


Body vibration and Cancer

Some victims of both LFN and the Hum complain of feeling whole or partial body tingling/vibration.  Branco1 and Alves-Pereira (2004) have discussed the clinical condition  in humans which occurs after months or years exposure to vibration and /or infrasound/LFN, so called Vibro- acoustic disease or VAD.   VAD is a whole-body, systemic pathology, characterized by the abnormal proliferation of extra-cellular matrices, and caused by excessive exposure to low frequency noise (LFN).  According to Branco1 and Alves-Pereira, VAD has been observed in LFN-exposed professionals, such as, aircraft technicians, commercial and military pilots and cabin crewmembers, ship machinists, restaurant workers, and disk-jockeys. VAD has also been observed in several populations exposed to environmental LFN. Their paper summarizes what was then known on   VAD,  LFN¬induced pathology, and related issues.


In 1987, the first autopsy of a deceased VAD patient was performed. The extent of LFN¬induced damage was overwhelming, and the information obtained is, still today, guiding many  ongoing research projects. In 1992, LFN-exposed animal models began to be studied in order to gain a deeper knowledge of how tissues respond to this acoustic stressor.  For example, in both human and animal models, LFN exposure causes thickening of cardiovascular structures. Indeed, pericardial thickening with no inflammatory process, and in the absence of diastolic dysfunction, is the hallmark of VAD. Depressions, increased irritability and aggressiveness, a tendency for isolation, and decreased cognitive skills are all part of the clinical picture of VAD.


Even more relevant to the present paper, LFN is a demonstrated genotoxic agent, inducing an increased frequency of sister chromatid exchanges in both human and animal models, see for example, Silva et al (2002) [9]. The occurrence of malignancies among LFN-exposed humans, and of metaplastic and displastic appearances in LFN-exposed animals, clearly corroborates the mutagenic outcome of LFN exposure.


Branco1 and Alves-Pereira  conclude that the inadequacy of currently established legislation regarding noise assessments is a powerful hindrance to scientific advancement. VAD can never be fully recognized as an occupational and environmental pathology unless the agent of disease - LFN - is acknowledged and properly evaluated and that the worldwide suffering of LFN-exposed individuals is staggering and it is unethical to maintain this status quo.


It is worthwhile considering the mechanism for the pathological damage in VAD.  Alves-Pereira  and Branco (2006) have done this. At present, infrasound (0–20 Hz) and low-frequency noise (20–500 Hz) (ILFN, 0–500 Hz) are agents of disease that go unchecked.  Accordingly they state that  VAD is increasingly being diagnosed among members of the general population, including children. VAD is associated with the abnormal growth of extra-cellular matrices (collagen and elastin), in the absence of an inflammatory process. In VAD, the end-product of collagen and elastin growth is reinforcement of structural integrity. This is seen in blood vessels, cardiac structures, trachea, lung, and kidney of both VAD patients and ILFN-exposed animals.  The conclusion is thus that  VAD is, essentially, a mechano-transduction disease [10]. Inter- and intra-cellular communication is achieved through both biochemical and mechano-tranduction signalling. When the structural components of tissue are altered, as is seen in ILFN-exposed specimens, the mechanically mediated signalling is, at best, impaired.


I have discussed the  potential perturbation of similar  with regard to radio waves, see Barnes [11]and  it seems to me there could  be a common basis for this and VAD particularly given the ELF modulation schemes of many modern digital transmissions such as GSM and TETRA. 


Common medical diagnostic tests, such as EKG, EEG, as well as many blood chemistry analyses, do not always effectively highlight the  mal-function of biochemical signalling processes. VAD patients often present within normal ranges of values for such tests. However, when echocardiography, brain MRI or histological studies are performed, where structural changes can be identified, all consistently show significant changes in VAD patients and ILFN-exposed animals.


ELF fields and Cancer

There  are several hundred papers discussing ELF fields and cancer and thus it is not possible to review them all in a short style publications such as this.  On balance, however, a greater percentage of those papers establish a positive correlation and some establish actual causality than those which do not.   One does need to treat this with some caution, for example, there are those papers which   claim  to establish causality due to the fields of overhead high voltage transmission    lines without taking into consideration that such lines also concentrate Nano pollution and Radon, both I their own right additional/ alternative possible  cancer initiators or promoters. I have discussed this at length elsewhere, see Overhead power lines a complex public health hazard more than just EMF [12].  Further external fields do not contribute significantly to fields in most homes.


Particularly hard to dismiss, however, are those papers which discuss a direct association between electromagnetic   fields  in the home and various cancers.  Further, in particular there are now papers which discuss direct association    between the  T-N ( PME) types of grounding system and cancer which are the self-same systems associated with Hum locations.  

The situation is even more accentuated, the larger the horizontal component of magnetic field found in houses [13] associated with the diversion of ground current in water and gas piping. 

One possible mechanism for this association could, again,  be melatonin suppression.  Karasek et al (1998) [14]  conclude that chronic exposure to 2.9 mT, 40 Hz magnetic field reduces melatonin concentrations in humans.   J. Pineal Res. 1998; 25:240–244. © Munksgaard, Copenhagen   They exposed patients with lower back pain syndrome to this magnetic field for 3 weeks (20 min per day, 5 days per week) either in the morning (at 10: 00 hr) or in the late afternoon (at 18: 00 hr). Significant depression in nocturnal melatonin rise was observed regardless of the time of exposure. This phenomenon was characteristic for all the subjects, although, as expected in a biological experiment, the precise   percent of inhibition of melatonin secretion varied among the studied individuals.


The Hum: Pollution and Cancer Link

I have previously shown an association between PM 2.5 pollution and the Hum world-wide, see Barnes [15].  Taking the Hum as distinct from ILFN and accepting the above notion of aural sensitivity to ELF magnetic fields a strong contender is the presence of geologic magnetite as a displacer of biologic magnetite in the body, see also http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk/HUMPOLL.htm.[15].   Geologic/anthropogenic magnetite in PM 2.5 pollution also more or less mirrors other air pollution in general.  PM 2.5 has been associated with literally all causes of mortality including cancer, see for example, Lewtas 2007.   I have also discussed PM 2.5 and nanoparticles with regard to tree death and die-back especially in the presence of RF fields as co-stressors, see Barnes [16].  http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk/td01.htm and [17] http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/TD03.htm.  I have also showed that taking into account air pollution can more properly explain cancer distribution around TV transmitters, see   http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk/Cancer%20Epidemiology.html [18].




It would seem if we accept the above then, we cannot deny there is an association between the both LFN and cancer and perhaps an even stronger association between the Hum and cancer.  With LFN it is its ability to cause sleep disturbance and the infrasound which is harmful at a cellular level.  The Hum is a phenomenon or group of phenomena.  I conclude it is not the Hum per se which causes cancer but the associated acoustic and electromagnetic components     through both their    tendencies to disturb sleep and the action of electromagnetic  fields either directly on cellular biology or indirectly on melatonin levels.  The Hum is bound to appear  worse in association with cancer  than just LFN alone in  premises because it is a double edged sword  with regard to melatonin suppression and additionally there is the compounding effect of air pollution.    


Thus to the scientifically  untrained mind it would be easy to conclude as some have done elsewhere   that it is solely the Hum  which accounts for recent explosions in cancer. This is a case of bi-phenomena  association but not direct causation.




The author wishes to acknowledge his wife and son for valuable discussions on the Hum and for being experimental subjects with regard to reporting on Hum occurrences and sleep disturbance.  



1.     http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/HUMSPECIALNOISE.htm


3.     http://fracdallas.org/docs/VAD1.html

4.     http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/Silence.htm

5.     http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/95/11/825.short

6.     http://link.springer.com/article/10.1385/ENDO:27:2:179#/page-1

7.     http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/PUBCHANGE.html

8.     https://www.researchgate.net/publication/22381016_Short_and_long_sleep_and_sleeping_pills_Is_increased_mortality_associated

9.     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11948630

10.  http://docs.wind-watch.org/VAD-ProgBiophysicsMolBiol-2007.pdf

11.  http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/Space.htm

12.  http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/PL01.htm

13.  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/340205/HpaRpd005.pdf

14.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227783969_Chronic_exposure_to_29_mT_40_Hz_magnetic_field_reduces_melatonin_concentrations_in_humans

15.  http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/humpoll.htm

16.  http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk/td01.htm

17.  http://www.drchrisbarnes.co.uk/TD03.htm

18.  http://drchrisbarnes.co.uk/Cancer%20Epidemiology.html