Carcinogenic potential of mobile phone use not clear cut
17 May 2010
The most comprehensive international study to date on the association between mobile phone use and brain cancers has not shown a strong causal link between the two but research on their relationship needs to continue, Professor Bruce Armstrong from the School of Public Health says.
Professor Armstrong led Australia's contribution to the Interphone Study Group, which analysed the mobile phone use of more than 5000 brain cancer patients and a control group of similar size in 13 countries. He says the analysis - to be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology tomorrow - found there was not a strong link between mobile phone use and brain cancers but highlighted some areas of concern.
"We found patients who had used mobile phones for more than 1640 hours over their lifetime had a slightly higher incidence of glioma brain tumours, cancers which originate in the brain's glial cells," he says.
"There is some suggestion of brain tumours occurring on the side of the head that is used by a subject when on a mobile phone.
"We also found regular mobile phone users among those with tumours had a higher incidence of cancer in the temporal lobe - the part of the brain that absorbs the most electromagnetic energy from a phone - rather than other lobes of the brain.
"However, it's best not to over-interpret these results. We can't say they indicate a cause and effect relationship. What they show is the need for further and very large studies, monitoring mobile phone users over longer periods of time and with access to their mobile phone service records, providing an accurate summary of their use."
Professor Armstrong says mobile phone users concerned about potential risks can take precautions to minimise their exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones.
"Use a landline when you can, send text messages rather than make voice calls, use a hands-free capability with your phone if possible and choose a mobile phone with low emissions."
The Interphone Study Group was coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, tasked by the World Health Organisation with listing and reviewing causes of cancer.
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