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Children Who Use Mobile Phones Are "Five
Times More Likely To Develop Brain Tumours'
Children who use mobile phones are five times more likely to develop a type of brain tumour, research has suggested.
The Swedish study indicated that under-16s are more at risk of radiation from mobile phones because their brains and nervous systems are still developing. Because their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains, it is believed. After presenting their findings, the scientists said that children under 12 should only use mobiles for emergencies.
They added that teenagers should use hands-free devices and try to restrict themselves to texting. But other researchers have cast doubt on the findings - saying that mobiles have not been on the market long enough to test accurately the risks associated with them. Around 90 per cent of under-16's in Britain have a mobile phone, as do 40 per cent of primary school children.
The Swedish research was reported at a conference on mobile phones and health. It was held at London's Royal Society by the Radiation Research Trust, an independent organisation campaigning for further research into the possible dangers of electromagnetic radiation. One major finding of the study was that the earlier a person started using a mobile phone, the higher the risk of developing a tumour.
Professor Lennart Hardell, of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden, said: 'People who started mobile phone use before the age of 20 had a more than five-fold increase in glioma.'
This is a cancer of the glial cells which support the central nervous system. About half of all primary brain tumours are gliomas, according to Cancer Research. Professor Hardell said that home cordless phones were almost as risky as mobile phones, with youngsters using them four times as likely to develop glioma.
Those who started using a mobile phone before the age of 20 also increased the risk by five times of getting an acoustic neuroma. These are benign tumours which do not cause cancer. Nevertheless, they can damage the auditory nerve and cause deafness. The researchers said that those who started using their mobiles in their 20s were 50 per cent more likely to contract glioma and twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas. Professor Hardell said: 'This is a warning sign. It is very worrying. We should be taking precautions.' The research led to calls from other scientists to look again at the potential risks of mobile phone use.
David Carpenter, of the State University of New York, said: 'Children are spending significant time on mobile phones. 'We may be facing a public health crisis in an epidemic of brain cancers as a result of mobile phone use.'
However other scientists expressed doubts about the Swedish research. One of the problems with studying the effects of mobile phone radiation is that it can take years for cancers to develop - perhaps much longer than mobile phones have so far been generally available. Britain is carrying out its own research involving 90,000 people, called the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme.
Professor David Coggon, who is working on the study, said: 'It looks frightening to see a five-fold increase in cancer among people who started use in childhood.' But he added that he would be 'extremely surprised' if the risk were shown to be that high once the evidence was in.