Mobile phones do not cause brain tumours

Contrary to last night’s A Current Affair story’s claims there is no biological, medical, or statistical basis to assert a link between mobile phone use and increased rates of brain cancer, Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) CEO Graham Chalker said.

“Unfortunately the views expressed in A Current Affair were personal opinions and conjecture and not based on the considerable body of international scientific evidence”, Mr Chalker said.

In a report released earlier this year which reviewed all the latest evidence, the Health Council of the Netherlands concluded:

There is no convincing evidence that, in experimental animals, the incidence of lymphomas and other types of tumours is influenced by lifetime, virtually daily exposure to electromagnetic fields such as those used in mobile telecommunications.1

On children specifically, the Health Council said in an earlier report:

It is unlikely from a development point of view that major changes in brain sensitivity to electromagnetic fields still occur after the second year of life. The Committee therefore concludes that there is no reason to recommend that mobile telephone use by children should be limited as far as possible.2

The American Cancer Society conducted a review of the research on mobile phone technology and cancer and presented its findings in March 2001. The review found:

In summary, there is now considerable epidemiological evidence that shows no consistent association between cellular phone use and brain cancer.

…the lack of ionizing radiation and the low energy level emitted from cell phones and absorbed by human tissues makes it unlikely that these devices cause cancer. 3] These views were confirmed recently in the biggest study in this area to date, conducted by the Danish Cancer Society. The Danish researchers studied all eligible mobile phone users in Denmark and found no increase risk of leukaemia or other cancers. The study concluded:

The results of this investigation, the first nationwide cancer incidence study of cellular phone users, do not support the hypothesis of an association between use of these telephones and tumors of the brain or salivary gland, leukemia, or other cancer. 4

The Danish study closely follows two major American studies that also found no evidence of increased cancer among a wide range of mobile phone users, Mr Chalker said.

“Any link with cancer and mobile phone technologies has been virtually ruled out,” he said.

Tumour location not linked to mobile phone use

Also, contrary to the conjecture made in A Current Affair there is no link between the location of brain tumours and the side of the head the phone is used on. In a study published in the Irish Medical Journal on the anatomical distribution of cerebral gliomas in mobile phone users the authors concluded:

Our analysis shows no association between the handedness of the patient and the side of the tumour. There is also no association between the use, non-use of a mobile phone and the lobar location of the tumour. 5

They added that data from the Irish National Cancer Registry from 1994 to 1997 shows no increasing brain tumour trend with increased mobile phone use during the same period.

Whilst some researchers have made claims about an association between brain cancer and mobile phone use, these claims have been rejected by leading scientists because of significant shortcomings in the studies, Mr Chalker said.

Dr Roger Grant, consultant neurologist, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, wrote in the British Medical Journal in May 1999, in response to media suggestions of a link:

If there was a link between mobile phones and brain tumors we would be experiencing a dramatic increase in the incidence of primary brain tumors in the young and working population in developing countries. No such increase has yet been identified in people aged under 65. 6

Brain tumour incidence not increasing

Also, the claim that brain tumours incidence is increasing is not supported by scientific evidence. In a recent study of incidence trends of adult brain tumors in four Nordic countries the authors concluded:

The increase in the incidence [adult primary brain tumors] was confined to the late 1970s and early 1980s and coinciding with introduction of improved diagnostic methods. This increase was largely confined to the oldest age group. After 1983 and during the period with increasing prevalence of mobile phone users, the incidence has remained relatively stable for both men and women. 7

Brain cancer is a very rare disease and this is why large multinational studies have been proposed to identify possible risk factors, Mr Chalker said.

“AMTA supports ongoing research such as the large scale multinational research project being coordinated by the World Health Organisation and is confident that it will continue to confirm the safety of mobile phone technology,” he said.

Children do not absorb more emissions

Furthermore, there is no known basis for singling out children for concern and the scientific evidence does not indicate significant differences in the absorption of electromagnetic energy from mobile phones between adults and teenagers or children, Mr Chalker said.

The view that children absorb more energy than adults from mobile phones was proposed in a paper in 1996. However, a more recent study using MRI data from actual adult and children’s heads showed there are no significant differences in the absorption of electromagnetic energy from mobile phones between adults and children. 8

The finding of this study is consistent with three other studies. 9

 In summary, they found the absorption of electromagnetic energy is scarcely affected by the size and shape of the head and compared to other factors (such as the distance of the phone from the head and the design of the phone) the effects caused by differences in anatomy were minimal.

“Mobile phones are designed, built and tested to comply with strict science based guidelines which are recognized by national and international health agencies around the world as providing ample protection for all users, including children,” Mr Chalker said.

Media enquiries to Bernadette Basell 0409 977 358 or 03 9696 5444

1. Health Council of the Netherlands. ELF Electromagnetic Fields Committee Electromagnetic Fields: Annual Update 2003 The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 2004; publication no. 2004/01.

 2. The Health Council of the Netherlands report to the Dutch Government 28 January 2002 – “Mobile telephones; an evaluation of health effects” – http://www.gr.nl/engels/welcome/frameset.htm

3. Frumkin, H et al Environmental Carcinogens – Cellular Phones and Risk of Brain Tumours CA-A Cancer J Clin 2001; 51(2): 137-141 http://www.cancer.org/docroot/pub/content/pub_3_8x_environmental_carcinogens-cellular_phones_and_risk_of_brain_tumors.asp?sitearea=PUB&viewmode=print&

4. Johansen, C et al Cellular Telephones and Cancer—a Nationwide Cohort Study in Denmark Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Oxford University Press, Copenhagen, February 2001

5. Kahn AA, O'Brien DF, Kelly P. The anatomical distribution of cerebral gliomas in mobile phone users. Irish Medical Journal 2003 96(8): 240-2.

6. Grant, R Mobiles on the brain British Medical Journal 1999;318:1495

7. Lönn S, Klaeboe L, Hall P, Mathiesen T, Auvinen A, Christensen HC, Johansen C, Salminen T, Tynes T, Feychting M. Incidence trends of adult primary intracerebral tumors in four Nordic countries. International Journal of Cancer. 2004 Jan. 20; 108(3):450-55.

8. Schonborn et al ‘Health Physics’ February, 1998.

9. 1. Kuster and Balzano 1992; 2. Hornbach et al. 1996; 3. Meir et al. 1997.