Cell Phones May or May not Cause Brain Cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers examining whether cell phones lead to brain cancer are puzzled by study findings that turn out to be inconclusive. Cell phones may or may not cause brain cancer, but if they do, the risk seems to be small according to a Canadian scientist who collaborated on the Interphone International Study Group.

Jack Siemiatycki, a professor at the University of Montreal and an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center explains that constraints placed on researchers to protect study participants may have resulted in limited information needed by the researchers. Though a link to cell phones and brain cancer was not found, study participants who engage in heavy cell phone use were found to have a higher risk of brain cancer.

Siemiatycki says, "Ethics reviews are now so rigid that scientists from Canada, the United States and Europe are losing the kind of access to medical databases and to study subjects that is needed to conduct studies such as this one. Ethics committees increasingly require that researchers work through treating physicians, professionals who are already overworked, to recruit their patients. This may work for clinical research exploring treatment of cancer, in which physicians often have a professional or personal interest, but it does not work for investigations into the causes of cancer. This flawed system can produce biased study results."


The inconclusive findings from one of the largest studies regarding cell phone use and brain cancer came from 21 epidemiologists from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Siemiatycki collaborated on the Interphone Study.

The accuracy of the data collected in the cell phone study may have been hindered by the study participants themselves. Subjects participating in the study can submit inaccurate information about cell phone use among cancer patients, making it difficult to say for certain whether cell phones can cause brain cancer.

Siemiatycki says consumers should remain calm about the possible flaws in the methodology of the largest study conducted on cell phones and brain cancer. "If there are risks, they are probably pretty small. Should anyone be concerned about potential dangers of cell phones, they can remedy the issue by using hands-free devices and avoid exposure to radio frequencies around their head." He also says, The world’s biggest study conducted on cell phone use and brain cancer is “ambiguous, surprising and puzzling”.

The study compared cell phone users to non-users. The results found no correlation between cell phone use and brain cancer. The findings did show that heavy users of cell phones seemed to be at a higher risk of brain tumors than non-users. Cell phones may or may not cause brain cancer. To find the answer, high quality studies are needed.

University of Montreal