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Do mobile phones cause brain cancer? Maybe not

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Cell phones and brain cancer

Researchers say it’s possible mobile phones don’t cause brain cancer after all, but some uncertainty still exists. The conclusion that cell phones may not cause cancer comes from an independent international panel of experts who conducted a study review and found no hard evidence of increased tumor risk - at least within ten to fifteen years.

Scientists say they can’t prove cell phone don’t cause cancer either

According to Professor Anthony Swerdlow, from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and colleagues:

"Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumours in adults."

But in case the statement makes you feel comfortable, it’s important to note Swerdlow says the studies only show cell phones don’t seem to cause cancer within 10 to 15 years after use.

“However, the possibility of a small or a longer term effect cannot be ruled out.”

There isn’t any clear evidence that cell phones cause brain cancer, even in animal studies, concluded the researchers

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This new study was carried out by the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) Standing Committee on Epidemiology.

The researchers examined results of the Swedish Interphone Study, which was carried out by the IARC (International Agency for Cancer Research) and included 13 countries. The conclusion from Swerdlow and his team is that the Interphone Study has several flaws.

The Interphone Study concluded there was a "suggestion" of increased risk of glioma - a type of brain cancer - with the highest exposure to cell phone radiation, but noted "biases and error" prevented interpreting cell phones as the cause of those tumors.

Swerdlow said, "If there are no apparent effects on trends in the next few years, after almost universal exposure to mobile phones in Western countries, it will become increasingly implausible that there is a material causal effect. Conversely, if there are unexplained rising trends, there will be a case to answer."

The researchers also note data is lacking as to whether cell phones could cause brain tumours in children. Based on the study review, and trends in the development of brain tumors, the authors say it’s “unlikely” that mobile phones cause cancer within 10 to 15 years of use. After that, no one knows.

"Mobile Phones, Brain Tumours and the Interphone Study: Where Are We Now?"
Anthony J. Swerdlow, Maria Feychting, Adele C. Green, Leeka Kheifets, David A. Savitz
Environ Health Perspect :-. doi:10.1289/ehp.1103693

Image credit: Morguefile