Phone Cancer Link Downplayed

British study finds that cell phone users are not at greater risk of developing brain tumors.

January 20, 2006

Regular cell phone users are not at greater risk of developing the most common type of brain tumor, glioma, according to a study published Friday.

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Nottingham, and Manchester, and the Institute of Cancer Research in London, conducted the four-year study between December 1, 2000, and February 29, 2004, on 966 adults diagnosed with glioma. A group of 1,716 healthy volunteers was used as a control group.

They found there was no relationship between the risk of glioma and the time since the adults’ first use of a cell phone, the number of years they had been using a cell phone, the number of calls they made, and the hours of mobile phone usage.

“This large case-control study found no increased risk of developing a glioma associated with mobile phone use either in the short or medium term,” said the study published in the British Medical Journal.

Contrary to an earlier Swedish study that found an increased risk, their data did not indicate a risk associated with cell phone use in rural areas.

However, the researchers did find a significantly increased risk for tumors that developed on the same side of the head as where the adults said they held their cell phones and a decreased risk of tumors on the other side of the head.

The researchers said that people with glioma brain tumors might be over-reporting their use of the phone on the same side as where the tumor developed and under-reporting their usage on the other side of their heads.

The earlier Swedish study also found increased incidence of brain tumors on the side of the head where people reported using their mobile phones. The British researchers pointed out, however, that other researchers had not been able to confirm the results of the Swedish study and had criticized its methods.

The British researchers acknowledged their own study was limited in predicting the long-term effects of cell phone use since mobile phones have only been popular in the United Kingdom since the late 1990s, although they have been available in the U.K. since 1985.

Older cell phones used analog technology, while newer cell phones employ digital technology. While the older varieties emitted higher amounts of power, the study showed no increased risk of glioma brain tumors with analog phones.

A study published last August in the British Journal of Cancer by the Institute of Cancer Research in London also found that cell phones do not increase the risk of cancer to the nerve that links the ear to the brain (see Cell Phones Don’t Cause Cancer).

Questions about Study Funding

Nevertheless, the possible link between cell phones and cancer risk remains a controversial topic. Aside from the Swedish study, other researchers have found links.

Cell phone makers have been making efforts in recent years to reduce the amount of radiation emitted from phones and listing the amount of radiation they can measure in their SAR (specific absorption rate) ratings.

The new BMJ study has already received criticism from advocacy groups such as Powerwatch, a British group that is examining the links between electromagnetic fields and health risks.

Director Alasdair Phillips pointed out to Bloomberg News that 49 percent of the 966 brain tumor patients in the study were not interviewed by the researchers.

In addition, the University of Leeds, which helped carry out the study, also received funding from various British mobile phone carriers, such as O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, and 3, to support the research. However, they signed contractual agreements to ensure the independence of the scientific investigators.

Various mobile phone industry groups, such as the GSM Association and the Mobile Manufacturer Forum, also provided funds for the larger 13-country Interphone study, of which the British study is one part.

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Informant: beefree


Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults


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