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Mobile Phones Do Not Cause Brain Cancer In The Short Term
Journalist: Jeremy Luarance
January 20, 2006

But British scientists warned it was still too early to conclude that mobile phones were safe. Cancers can take 30 years to develop and most users of mobile phones have owned them for less than a decade.

The only suspicious finding from the four-year study of almost 1,000 people in England with gliomas - the most common brain cancer - was that tumours were significantly more likely to appear on the side of the head to which people said they held their phone.

But the researchers said it was likely that people were over-reporting use of a mobile phone on the side where the tumour occurred and under-reporting it on the opposite side - though they admitted the results were "difficult to interpret".

The latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that short-term risks from mobile phones are low. But with more than one billion users world-wide, even a small risk could mean thousands of people affected.

Yet, despite extensive research, scientists have failed to find convincing evidence of harm. Some studies have indicated possible adverse effects, including an increase in acoustic neuromas - a non-cancerous brain tumour - among users in Sweden and changes to cognitive function among Dutch users.

But British researchers said the studies were not all robust and there was no hard evidence that mobile phones damaged health in the short to medium term.

"Numerous reviews have all concluded that there is no consistent evidence of a rise in risk of brain tumours from mobile phone use or radio frequency radiation generally," said Professor Anthony Swerdlow of the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

Patricia McKinney, professor of paediatric epidemiology at Leeds University, who led the study, said cases of brain tumours had risen in the past 30 years to between 4,000 and 4,500 diagnoses a year and were continuing to rise at 2pc to 3pc a year. The reasons were not understood but may be partly due to improved diagnosis, she said.

"We could 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.

The study, published online in the 'British Medical Journal', found that those who reported regularly using mobile phones were not at a greater overall risk of developing glioma.

Rural dwellers were at no greater risk, it found, even though they receive relatively large doses of microwave radiation from their handsets to compensate for the fact that base stations are further apart in the countryside. Such a link was suggested last year in a Swedish study by Professor Lennart Hardell. .

Mobile phones have been available in the UK since 1985, but did not become widely used until the late 1990s. A review of research published by the UK National Radiological Protection Board last year urged a precautionary approach.

It said children under eight should avoid using the phones because if there were long-term harmful effects, children with developing brains would be most vulnerable.

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