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Mobiles Really Affect Your Brain
Using a mobile phone is not linked to an increased risk of the most common type of brain tumours, researchers reveal today.
But their four-year study, published in the British Medical Journal, should not be "valued too highly" according to a Welsh expert who claims it focuses on the "wrong sort of brain cells".
A major new study into the link between the use of mobile phones and glioma, the most common form of brain tumour, found there was "no increased risk" of developing a tumour from using a phone.
Volunteers 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.But Roger Coghill, who runs a laboratory in Pontypool and specialises in research into the risks of mobile phones, said the study, funded in part by the UK's five biggest mobile phone firms, could not be taken seriously.
He said, "I don't value this research too highly. They are looking at the wrong cells in the brain. When you start looking at the neural cells, there is a clear influence from the use of mobile phones.
"The evidence is building all the time all around the world about the dangers of mobile phones."
Professor Coghill called for studies into the safety of mobiles to be funded independently.
He added, "Time and time again there's a funding bias and those who are carrying out these studies on behalf of mobile phone companies find results that are convenient for the funding agents."
The latest study, by researchers at universities in Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester, along with the Institute of Cancer Research, did find a link between where users held their phones and where tumours occurred.
The researchers said 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, who carried out the research, said that there was public concern about the effect of mobile phones and tumours, but this was not backed up in their study.
"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," she said.
"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."
Professor Anthony Swerdlow, head of epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer, said one problem with research into links between mobiles 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 couldn't examine.
"Numerous reviews have all concluded there is no consistent evidence of a rise in risk of brain tumours from mobile phone use or radio frequency radiation generally," Professor Swerdlow said.
He also said it was difficult to assess what the risks might be to children in particular.
"There are extremely few children who have used mobile phones for long enough to have data on whether brain tumours may be increased by mobile use," he added.
More than 40m people in the UK are currently estimated to use mobile phones.
Last year, a team from the National Radiological Protection Board said it was important to take a "precautionary approach" to using mobiles, with young people thought to be at a higher risk.