Study Links Mobile Phones, Benign Tumors
Journalist: Matt Moore
August 07, 2006
Swedish study suggests that people who use a cell phone for at least 10
years might increase their risk of developing a rare benign tumor along
a nerve on the side of the head where they hold the phone.
an interview with The Associated Press, one of the researchers behind
the preliminary study, Anders Ahlbom, said the results were surprising
and more research is needed.
Several previous studies have
investigated whether the use of cell phones is linked to an increased
risk of brain tumors. Although experiments have shown radiation from
mobile phones can affect brain cells in a lab, more relevant studies on
people have found no evidence that the phones pose a health risk.
However, experts have said that because children's brains are
developing, it may not be a good idea for youngsters to use the phones
for long periods.
The three-year study by Ahlbom and Maria
Feychting, professors at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm,
focused on 750 Swedes who had used cell phones for at least 10 years.
It was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
the study, researchers questioned 150 patients already diagnosed with
acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor on the auditory nerve that takes
several years to grow before being diagnosed, and 600 who did not have
it, about their cell phone use.
All 750 subjects had been
using cell phones for at least 10 years, nearly all early analog models
that emit more electromagnetic radiation than the digital models now on
the market. Digital phones emit radiation in pulses; the older analog
varieties emit continuous waves. Since cell phones exploded in
popularity in the late 1990s, most of those sold used digital
"At the time the study was conducted, only analog
mobile phones had been in use for more than 10 years and therefore we
cannot determine if the results are confined to use of analog phones or
if the results would be similar after long-term use of digital phones,"
the report said.
The risk of developing a tumor was almost
double for those who started to use phones before their diagnosis. In
addition, the tumor risk was almost four times higher on the side of
the head where the phone was held, Ahlbom and Feychting said.
questionnaires are not considered the most accurate method of
determining a link between behavior and disease. Many links that emerge
from such studies turn out not to be true under more rigorous study.
neuroma tumors, which can affect hearing, occur in less than one adult
per 100,000 people annually. The tumor pushes on the surface of the
brain, but doesn't grow into the brain itself, according to the
Atlanta-based Acoustic Neuroma Association.
The study was
funded by the European Union and is part of the wider Interphone study
coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
studies, including one by Finnish scientists in 2002, found that
electromagnetic radiation emitted by phones can affect brain tissue,
but others have said that's not the case.
The wireless industry has always maintained there is no link between mobile phones and cancer.
Wireless Association in Washington, D.C., a trade group representing
American cell phone manufacturers, urged more research. "The wireless
industry agrees that more research is needed in this area to provide
definitive answers to any questions that might still exist," it said in
a statement Wednesday.
Ahlbom conceded more research was needed, adding
the study was not necessarily an excuse to avoid using cell phones.