Link Between Cell Phone Use and Brain Tumors Remains Inconclusive

Posted on May 19th, 2010 by

A large, international study has found no conclusive evidence that cell phone use increases the risk for brain tumors, according to an early online publication in the International Journal of Epidemiology.[1]

Although concerns have been raised about possible links between cell phones and cancers of the brain and other parts of the head and neck, studies have not found any consistent link. Nevertheless, it’s not yet possible to draw firm conclusions about the health effects of cell phones (also known as mobile phones), and research on this topic continues.

Cell phones emit radio waves. Radio waves are a type of low-frequency (non-ionizing) electromagnetic radiation. Exposure to high levels of this type of radiation can heat body tissue, but studies suggest that the amount of energy produced by cell phones is too low to produce significant heating.[2]

With use of cell phones steadily increasing since their introduction in the mid 1980s, long-term health effects remain an important consideration. To evaluate whether use of cell phones increases the risk of brain tumors (glioma and meningioma, in particular), researchers with the Interphone Study Group conducted a study involving 13 countries. Participants included 2,708 people diagnosed with glioma, 2,409 with meningioma, and a comparison group of 5634 people without brain tumors. Rates of mobile phone use for at least 10 years were recorded. This is the largest study of its kind to date.

Overall, researchers found no elevated risk of a brain tumor (glioma or meningioma) associated with cell phone use. They did, however, report a “suggestion” of increased risk among people with the greatest amount of cell phone use (up to 1,640 hours lifetime cumulative call time versus a study median of around 100 hours). However, due to potential biases and errors within the study, this latter finding is not considered conclusive.

It appears that there is still uncertainty about the relationship between cell phone use and risk of brain tumors. Research into cell phone use and brain tumors is likely to be ongoing, as cell phone use continues to increase, particularly among young people.

References:


[1] The Interphone Study Group. Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case–control study. International Journal of Epidemiology [early online publication]. May 17, 2010.

[2] National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. Cellular Telephone Use and Cancer Risk. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/cellphones. Accessed May 17, 2010.

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