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Extended study finds no link between mobile phone use and increased brain tumour risk

Oct. 21, 2011

By Patricia Nicholson

Good news for people concerned about mobile phone use: results of a large extended study do not indicate any link between using a mobile phone and increased risk of brain tumours.

The massive growth in mobile phone use over the past 20 years has given rise to questions about their safety. Background information in the study explains that there has been concern that the radio frequency electromagnetic fields given off by the phones might increase risk of cancer – specifically brain cancer (because phones are held against the head, the brain would be most vulnerable to the emissions).

During the 18-year study, Danish researchers followed more than 350,000 mobile phone subscribers in Denmark, and compared their cancer risk with the rest of the population. From 1990 to 2007, a total of 10,729 subscribers (5,111 men and 5,618 women) were diagnosed with a tumour in their central nervous system, including brain tumours.

The researchers looked at the tumour data for all subscribers, for men, for women, for both men and women with different durations of mobile phone use, and also at tumour location. There was no indication in any of these categories that mobile phone use was linked to tumours.

There were no significant differences in tumour risks between non-subscribers and people who had subscribed to mobile phone service for 13 years or more, in either men or women. There were no significant differences in brain tumour risk between non-users and people who had used mobile phones for 10 years or more, in either men or women. There was also no indication that mobile phone users might be more prone to tumours in specific locations that are most likely to have the most exposure to mobile phone emissions.

The study updates data from an existing study that followed subscribers until 2002. The researchers believe this is the largest study to date probing a possible link between mobile phone use and brain tumours. The study’s long followup period provided strong data on the effects of using mobile phones for more than 10 years, and found no increased risk of brain cancer. However, further research would be required to determine if there is an increased risk associated with longer-term use (more than 15 years).

The study was published online in BMJ on Oct. 20, 2011.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital