No link between mobile phones and brain tumors in large UK study

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UPDATE April 5, 2022 // Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional comments.

A new British study shows no link between brain tumors and mobile phone use, even in people who used their phones every day and/or had used them for more than 10 years.

“These findings support the growing body of evidence that routine cell phone use does not increase brain tumor risk,” said study author Kirstin Pirie, MSc, of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit of Oxford Population Health, UK, in a statement.

However, an important limitation of the study is that it only involved middle-aged and older women; these people tend to use cellphones less than younger women or men, the authors note. In this study’s cohort, mobile phone use was low, with only 18% of users talking on the phone for 30 minutes or more each week, they note.

The results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

This study is “a welcome addition to the body of knowledge on the risk of cellphones, and more particularly with regard to certain types of tumor genesis. This is a well-designed prospective study that does not identify any link causality,” commented Professor Malcolm Sperrin of Oxford University Hospitals, who was not involved in the research.

“There is always a need for more research, especially as phones, wireless etc become ubiquitous, but this study should allay many existing concerns,” he commented to the UK. ScienceMedia Center.

However, the study and its conclusion were heavily criticized by the Environmental Health Trust. “Studies that rely on outdated data are dangerous because they don’t take into account how people use cell phones today. Many users today are on the phone for hours a day. day,” said Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, president of the Environmental Health Trust and fellow of the American College of Epidemiology. “Wrong ages, wrong questions, wrong exhibition information.”

The Environmental Health Trust adds that “numerous human and animal studies have found associations between cell phone radiation and cancer”, and it continues to recommend that the public, and especially children, reduce radiation exposure. cell phones and other wireless devices.

Concerns about a risk of cancer, particularly brain tumors, have been circulating for decades and, to date, there have been around 30 epidemiological studies on this issue, as previously reported Medscape Medical News.

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that cell phones are “probably carcinogenic”. This conclusion was largely based on the results of the large international INTERPHONE case-control study (Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Jun;39:675-94) and a series of Swedish studies led by Hardell Lennart, MD.

In the latest paper, the UK researchers suggest that a “likely explanation for the previous positive results is that for a very slowly growing tumor there may be detection bias if mobile phone users seek medical attention due to the knowledge of typical symptoms of acoustic neuroma, such as unilateral hearing problems, earlier than nonusers.

“The totality of human evidence, from observational studies, time trends and bioassays, suggests little or no increased risk of mobile phone users developing a brain tumour,” the UK researchers conclude.

Commenting on the UK study, Joachim Schüz, PhD, Head of IARC’s Environment and Radiation Section, noted that “mobile technologies are constantly improving, so newer generations emit significantly lower power output.

“Nevertheless, given the lack of evidence for heavy users, advising cellphone users to reduce unnecessary exposures remains a good precautionary approach,” Schuz said in a statement.

UK study details

The UK study was conducted by researchers from Oxford Population Health and IARC, who used data from the ongoing UK Million Women Study. This study began in 1996 and recruited 1.3 million women born between 1935 and 1950 (1 in 4 women) through the UK National Health Service (NHS) breast screening programme. These women regularly complete postal questionnaires on socio-demographic, medical and lifestyle factors.

Questions about cell phone use were completed by approximately 776,000 women in 2001 (when they were between 50 and 65 years old). About half of these women also answered these questions about mobile phone use 10 years later, in 2011 (when they were aged 60 to 75).

The responses indicated that in 2011, the majority of women (75%) aged 60-64 used a mobile phone, while just under half of those aged 75-79 used one.

These women were then followed for an average of 14 years through linkage with their NHS records.

The researchers looked for any mention of brain tumors, including glioma, acoustic neuroma, meningioma, and pituitary tumors, as well as eye tumors.

During the 14-year follow-up period, 3,268 (0.42%) of the participants developed a brain tumor, but there was no significant difference in this risk between people who had never used mobile phone and those who use it. These included tumors in the temporal and parietal lobes, which are the most exposed areas of the brain.

There was also no difference in the risk of developing tumors between women who reported using a cell phone daily, those who used them at least 20 minutes a week, and those who had used a cell phone for more than 10 years. .

Additionally, among individuals who developed a tumor, the incidence of right-sided and left-sided tumors was similar among mobile phone users, although mobile phone use tends to involve the right side much more. than the left side, researchers note.

The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online March 29, 2022. Full text

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