Mobile Phone Use In Rural Areas Carries Three Times The Cancer
Journalist: Steve Connor
May 17, 2005
People who use mobile
phones regularly in rural areas are three times more likely than city
dwellers to suffer from brain tumours, a study has found. Scientists
believe that rural users of mobile phones receive relatively large
doses of microwave radiation from their handsets to compensate for the
fact that base stations in the countryside are further apart than in
The findings are based on a sample of 1,400 patients with brain
cancer who were compared against a further 1,400 healthy people who had
also been interviewed about their use of mobile phones.
But the scientists who conducted the research admitted that the
overall number of cases involved was still small and said the findings
did not prove that using mobile phones can cause brain tumours.
Professor Lennart Hardell, a cancer specialist at the University
Hospital of Orebro in Sweden, said the results of the study
nevertheless pointed to a link between the dose of microwave radiation
from a mobile and the risk of developing brain tumours.
"It's another piece of evidence, but of course we have to wait for
further studies. This is a further step indicating that there is
probably a problem and people should use the precautionary principle to
limit their use of mobile phones, especially for children," Professor
The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, investigated more than 1,400 Swedes aged between 20 and 80
who had been diagnosed with a malignant or benign brain tumour between
January 1997 and June 2000.
The scientists found no link between the probability of developing a
tumour and the time spent on the phone, but they did find a link
between the risk of brain cancer and place of residence - rural or
Residents of rural areas who had been using a mobile digital phone
for more than three years were three times more likely to be diagnosed
with a brain tumour than those living in urban areas.
For those rural residents who had used a mobile digital phone for
five years or more, the risk quadrupled compared to city dwellers. Yet
the scientists found no such increased risk when they looked at older,
analogue mobile phones.
Professor Hardell suggested the reason was that digital phones use a
system called adaptive power control, which automatically boosts the
power output of the handset signals when base stations are located
Radiation emissions from a mobile phone handset can be 10 times
higher in rural areas than in urban districts to compensate for the
fact that base stations are located further apart, he said. "With
analogue phones the emissions are constant and we did not see this
difference between rural and urban areas," Professor Hardell said.
For malignant tumours the difference was even greater, with rural
residents running an eightfold increase in risk compared to those
living in urban areas.
But Professor Hardell said the absolute numbers involved were small
and said that the findings must be treated with caution until further,
large-scale studies were completed.
"The message is that people should use hands-free sets and limit their phone calls if possible," he said.
A spokesman for Britain's Health Protection Agency said Professor
Hardell's study was not designed to test the hypothesis that rural
phone use was more dangerous than in the city.
"We do need to be precautionary about the use of mobile phones,
especially by young children," the spokesman said. "We also need to be
precautionary about this study, because other research has not found a
clear link between mobile phone handsets and brain cancers."
"We should wait for the results of the Interphone study which is
being carried out at the moment. It is a large study in 13 countries
and should give a good indication of whether or not there is a real
cancer risk from mobile phone use."