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Do mobiles really give you cancer after all?

The argument has gone to and fro for years. Now - according to an article in Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography – “the highest quality research data” suggest that mobile phone critics could be right: that long-term exposure to microwaves from mobiles raises the risk of brain tumours. The article was written by RB Dubey and colleagues at Apeejay College of Engineering in India.

15 Nov 2010

The argument has gone to and fro for years. Now - according to an article in Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography – “the highest quality research data” suggest that mobile phone critics could be right: that long-term exposure to microwaves from mobiles raises the risk of brain tumours.

The article was written by RB Dubey and colleagues at Apeejay College of Engineering in India.

By “long-term”, they mean at least 10 years. There have been only 11 published studies – the “Interphone” studies – that have provided data on the risk of brain tumours from mobile phone use over this period, they say. The Interphone studies had concluded largely that mobile exposure did not increase the tumour risk. But the source for most of the data in these studies, the Apeejay team says, was largely funded by the wireless communications industry.

One important study, however – because it was independent of the industry - had reached a different conclusion. Swedish cancer researcher Dr Lennart Hardel had concluded that, the more hours mobiles were used, the higher was the risk of tumours, and that the risk increased with such factors as the level of power from the phone, the years since first use, total exposure and younger age when starting use of mobiles.

Having analysed all these studies, the Apeejay team concluded that “long-term cell phone usage can approximately double the risk of developing a glioma or acoustic neuroma in the more exposed brain hemisphere”. They say that their conclusion is consistent even with data from all the Interphone studies.

They agree that more studies are needed to determine definitively risks of brain cancer and other health effects from long-term use of mobiles. But they suggest meanwhile that steps to reduce exposure could include limiting the length and number of mobile calls, encouraging hands-free use and restricting use by children. They also suggest that newer technology could help reduce exposure and that governments should revise standards for microwave exposure.

The precautionary principle clearly applies in this case, they say; the problem is possible but not certain, and low-cost ameliorating actions are easily implemented by industry. With three billion people using mobiles and children among the heaviest users, “it is time for governments to mandate precautionary measures to protect their citizens”.


Published: 15 Nov 2010