Major industry-funded study on link between cell phone use and brain cancers is inconclusive

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Major study on cell phones and cancer inconclusive

GENEVA — A major international study into the link between cell phone use and two types of brain cancer has proved inconclusive, according to a report in a medical journal due to be published later this week.

The survey of almost 13,000 participants found cell phone use didn’t increase the risk of developing meningioma — a common and frequently benign tumor — or glioma — a rarer but deadlier form of cancer.

The 10-year study, which was conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, concluded there were “suggestions” that heavy use could increase the risk of glioma but “biases and error prevent a causal interpretation” that would directly blame cell phone radiation for the tumor.

Heavy use was defined as 30 minutes or more of calls a day.

The authors acknowledged that one source of possible inaccuracies was the fact that participants were asked to remember how much and on which ear they used their mobiles over the past decade. Results for some groups showed cell phone use appeared to lessen the risk of developing cancers, something the researchers described as “implausible.”

The authors said further investigation is necessary before they can conclude there is no link between cell phone radiation and brain cancer. People’s use of the devices has changed considerably since the start of the study in 2000, they noted.

Scientists are also planning to examine the whether cell phone use increases the risk of tumors in the ear’s acoustic nerve and the parotid gland, where saliva is produced. A separate study will look into the effects of cell phone use on children, who are believed to be more susceptible to the effects of radiation.

The paper, which will be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on Tuesday, was compiled by researchers in 13 countries including Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan, but not the U.S. Scientists interviewed 12,848 participants, of which 5,150 had either meningioma or glioma tumors.

Almost a quarter of the euro19.2 million (23.98 million) required to fund the study was provided by the cell phone industry.

Network operators and handset companies had keenly anticipated the results of the study, which could have threatened the rapid development of their business. There were an estimated 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions at the end of last year, compared with about 1 billion in 2002, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

The study’s lead authors are due to present their findings to the media in Geneva on Monday.


International Journal of Epidemiology:

International Agency for Research on Cancer:

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