Cell Phones Don't Cause Tumors, Study Finds

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Cell Phones Don't Cause Tumors, Study Finds

No substantial risk in first decade of use, researcher says.

James Niccolai, IDG News Service

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Using a mobile phone for ten years does not significantly increase a person's risk of developing a tumor, according to a new study from the UK's Institute of Cancer Research.

The investigation was the largest one to date that has studied the relationship between mobile phones and acoustic neuromas, a type of tumor that occurs close to the ear, according to the study's authors.

"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," Anthony Swerdlow, professor and lead investigator at the Institute of Cancer Research, said in a statement.

The study looked at 678 people with acoustic neuromas and 3,553 people without the illness. They were asked detailed questions about their mobile phone use, including the length and frequency of the calls they made, the type of phone they used, and other factors that might affect their risk of getting the disease.

The study found no relation between risk of acoustic neuroma and level of mobile phone use.

Tumor Appearances

Acoustic neuromas are of particular interest because they occur close to where mobile phones are held to the head. They are a type of benign tumor that grows in the nerve connecting the ear to the brain. Acoustic neuromas often cause hearing loss and impair balance, but they do not typically spread to other parts of the body.

The study's results corroborate the findings of other recent reports, but since it recommends longer-term studies, the UK investigation may not put to rest the debate over whether cell phone radiation harms health.

Still, the test marks "a great step forward" in understanding the relationship between tumors and mobile phones because it involved such a large number of participants, the researchers said.

"The evidence for the health effects of mobile phones and radio-frequency fields in general has been reviewed by several expert committees quite recently, and the results of this new study are compatible with their conclusions," Minouk Schoemaker, one of the report's authors, wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

The study was published online Tuesday in the British Journal of Cancer. It was conducted in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden--countries where mobile phones were introduced relatively early.

A separate study from Denmark, published in April in the journal Neurology, looked at two other types of tumor: glioma and meningioma. That study involved about 1200 participants, including 427 who suffered from one of the two diseases; it, too, found no increased risk of tumor development from cell phone use. Like the UK report, it advised that longer-term research be undertaken.

A further report released in January by the UK's National Radiological Protection Board acknowledged the absence of any conclusive evidence linking mobile phones to tumors or cancer; nevertheless it recommended that children's mobile phone use be limited, suggesting that they might be more vulnerable to radio frequency radiation exposure because their nervous systems are still developing.

Children Not Studied

This week's UK study looked at people between the ages of 18 and 69, and did not address the risks to children, Schoemaker said.

The Institute of Cancer Research is also studying other types of tumors, including glioma and meningioma. Results from those tests are not yet ready for release, she said.

Asked for her personal opinion about whether mobile phones pose a health risk, she replied that the greatest health risk established to date involves the increased risk of accidents due to using a cell phone while driving.

 

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