Mobile phone users at greater risk for brain tumor

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http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/science/story.jsp?story=92389

Mobile phone users 'at greater risk of brain tumour'

By Charles Arthur Technology Editor

05 September 2001

People who used mobile phones for two hours a day in the 1980s and early 1990s have a "significantly raised" risk of developing a brain tumour, a Swedish scientist has found.

The study by Lennart Hardell, a cancer specialist at Orebro University in Sweden, is a landmark piece of research in the debate over whether the microwave radiation put out by mobile phone handsets can cause cancer. It is due to be published later this year.

His research compared 1,600 people who survived brain tumours with 1,600 healthy people. He found that those who had used mobile phones for more than five years were 26 per cent more likely, and those who used them for more than a decade were 77 per cent more likely, to develop a brain tumour than those who did not. The tumours were 2.5 times more likely to be on the same side of the head as the phone was usually held.

The findings will fuel the debate over the use of mobile phones by children which grew in intensity yesterday when speakers at the British Association science conference in Glasgow condemned companies for encouraging young people to use the phones.

Professor Hardell said it was not possible to extend his results directly to modern phones, which emit about 10 times less power than the older analogue ones. But he did advise adopting a "precautionary" approach.

Dr Michael Clark, of the National Radiological Protection Board, which set limits on radiation exposure, said: "A study like that has to be taken seriously ... But analogue phones were pretty much phased out around 1997. The new digital ones emit significantly less power."

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), September 05, 2001

Answers

This strikes me as sensationalist journalism. The implication is that long-term analog cell-phone users have something worth worrying about. Well, consider that due to x-ray treatments as a child I have 100 times the risk of the general population of developing thyroid cancer. But it isn't worth losing any sleep over because the rate in the general population is so low (about 0.01% IIRC) that my much greater risk is also low (about 1%).

If brain tumors have a similar low incidence in the general population then 1.77 times that low incidence would be absolutely nothing worth worrying about. But the headline "Mobile phone users 'at greater risk of brain tumour'" is so much more catchy than saying "Mobile phone users have 0.02% risk of brain tumor," isn't it?

-- Barb Knox (barbara-knox@iname.com), September 06, 2001.


Well said, as to relative risk versus absolute risk.

The scientific debate over cell phones is still very much in progress and the logic of any causal relationship is somewhat weak in my opinion. Although this case-control study supposedly found a relationship, there are lots of pitfalls in making and interpreting studies with such a design... and other studies have not found this link. So, the issue is still being tossed about.

Meanwhile, good reasons to minimize cell phone use derive from considerations other than cancer fears: like being polite to those around you, being safe while driving, and simply spending more time appreciating the world around you rather than screaming into a little black box.

How ever did people survive without the telephone??? And why must people YELL when using cell phones???

-- Andre Weltman, M.D. (aweltman@state.pa.us), September 07, 2001.


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