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No Cancer Link With Mobile Phone Use
January 20, 2006
Mobile phone use is not linked to an increased risk of brain tumours according to the latest research.
But researchers have said that, as mobile phones had only been in widespread use for about 10 years, the long-term effects are still unknown.
They also found no link between the risk of the tumour and the length of time since someone first started using a mobile or the number or length of calls that were made.
The latest study, published online in the British Medical Journal, involved 966 people with glioma - the most common type of brain tumour - and 1,716 healthy volunteers who acted as a comparison.
The two groups were interviewed about their use of mobile phones in the past, such as how long they had used them, how often they made calls and for how long, and on which side of their head they held the phone.
The researchers, from the Universities of Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester and the Institute of Cancer Research in London, found that those who reported regularly using mobile phones were not at a greater overall risk of developing glioma.
The team also found no link between using a mobile phone in rural areas and an increased risk of tumours.
Such a link was suggested in a Swedish study by Professor Lennart Hardell which was published last year.
However, the latest study did find a significant increased risk between the side of the head where people said they held the phone and where their tumour occurred.
The researchers said that it was difficult to interpret this result.
They said the finding was probably due to people who had a tumour linking their phone use to the side of their head where the tumour was found, making them more likely to report using the mobile on the same side.
Professor Patricia McKinney, professor of paediatric epidemiology at Leeds University, said that there was public concern about the effect of mobile phones and tumours, but this was not backed up in their study.
She said: "Our study can only evaluate relatively short-term use with confidence because the majority of people in our study had used mobile phones for less than 10 years."
"Future studies will be able to address the risks of longer term use, but we found no evidence of increased risks in the short to medium term."
Although mobile phones have been available in the UK since 1985, they did not become widely used until the late 1990s.
More than 40 million people in the UK are thought to use mobile phones, including many children.
Last year Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency, called on parents to ban children under eight from using mobile phones.
He also said he wanted teenagers to restrict their use and rely more on sending text messages.
Scientists believe youngsters are at greatest risk from the potentially damaging health effects of mobile phone emissions.
Last January a team from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), which advises the Government, said it was important to take a precautionary approach to using mobiles.
Youngsters are thought to be at higher risk from mobile phone radiation because their nervous system is still developing, they absorb more energy through their head and are likely to be exposed to emissions for more years.
Professor Anthony Swerdlow, head of epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer, said one problem with research into links between mobile phones and tumours was the short time they had been in use.
He said it might take 30 years or more to show up any link, which their study was obviously not able to look at.
He also said that it was difficult to assess what the risks might be to children in particular as there are few who have been using them long enough to provide reliable information.
Cases of brain tumours have been increasing in the past 30 years, with between 4,000 and 4,500 diagnoses a year.
Professor McKinney said that cases were rising by between 2 per cent and 3 per cent a year, although part of the reason for this could be better diagnostic methods detecting more tumours.