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August 31, 2005

Cell Phones Don't Cause Cancer In First Decade - Study

Courtesy of EE Times

LONDON — One of the largest and most rigorous studies ever into the alleged links between cancer and the use of mobile phones has failed to find any connection between the two — at least for the first ten years of use.

According to the study, published on line by the British Journal of Cancer and conducted by scientists at the world-renowned Institute of Cancer Research in London, there is no link between a type of brain cancer called acoustic neuroma and the number of years that mobiles had been used, the time since first use, the total hours of use or the total number of calls.

However, the researchers admitted there was relatively little information concerning the risk of tumours after mobile use of over ten years. This, they conceded, needs to be monitored.

The study also failed to establish any links between the use of older analog headsets compared with newer digital versions as regards the occurrence of acoustic neuromas in the brain.

Acoustic neuromas are benign tumours that grow in the nerve connecting the ear and inner ear to the brain. They appear close to where people usually place their mobile handsets so it was an obvious choice of cancer for the scientists to investigate.

The study was carried out in five countries — Britain, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, all countries that established mobile networks early on and have a high mobile phone penetration — on 678 people with acoustic neuroma and compared their use of mobile phones over a 10-year period with a group of 3,553 people who had not developed the condition.

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, a senior investigator on the study at the Institute of Cancer Research, said mobile phone use was a relatively recent phenomenon and that longer-term problems may yet emerge.

"There has been public concern about whether there is a link between brain cancer risk and use of mobile phones," Professor Swerdlow said. "The results of our study suggest that there is no substantial risk in the first decade after starting use. Whether there are longer-term risks remains unknown reflecting the fact that this is a relatively recent technology," he said.

There have been numerous studies over the past few years that have suggested that microwave radiation from mobile phones could cause localised heating in the brain and some epidemiological investigations have pointed to an increased risk of cancer.

Last May, a study found that people who use mobile phones regularly in rural areas are three times more likely than city dwellers to suffer from brain tumours. However, a study published last year of 427 people with brain tumours found no evidence to suggest that mobile phones were responsible, although , again, the scientists behind the study warned that further research was needed.

And despite many scares, there has been no study to date that could be independently repeated that has shown regular use of mobile phones has had any harmful effects on humans. Not surprisingly, the mobile phone industry strongly argues that there is no conclusive evidence linking the use of phones to cancer.

Official advice is that he widespread use by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged.

Earlier this year Sir William Stewart, the chairman of the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency, called on parents to ban children under eight from using mobile phones.

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