More research required on Swedish study of rare tumours and analogue mobile phones

A Swedish population-based case-control study1 which has found an increased risk of acoustic neuroma for analogue mobile phone use, should be interpreted with caution because the small numbers mean some findings could be expected by chance alone.

“As always, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) welcomes new research on mobile phone safety, but emphasises that individual studies need to be seen in the light of the total research effort into mobile phone safety,” Graham Chalker, AMTA CEO said.

“No single study can answer any scientific question, and this study, like all others, must be viewed not in isolation but against the backdrop of significant previous research.

“None of the many national and international agencies monitoring the issue, including the World Health Organisation, has asserted that mobile phones pose a health risk,” Mr Chalker said.

The authors of the Swedish study have acknowledged that there are a number of limitations. They advocate caution due to the small numbers in some comparisons and point out that there is the possibility of misclassification of exposure due to recall bias.

The authors make more than 200 statistical comparisons with data from only 413 cases and therefore, some findings, would be expected by chance alone.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France is conducting the INTERPHONE study. It involves 13 nations and looks at the incidence of head and neck cancers in mobile phone users. It is the largest epidemiological study in this area.

So far, the Swedish arm of the INTERPHONE study has reported “...an increased risk of acoustic neuroma associated with [analogue] mobile phone use of at least 10 years’ duration.” In contrast, the Danish INTERPHONE study from February this year concluded: “…there is no evidence for an association between use of cellular telephones and the risk of developing acoustic neuroma.”

Mr Chalker said: “Until we have the results of all 13 INTERPHONE studies, as well as the overall analysis of the data that will be undertaken by the IARC, a complete assessment cannot be made.”

Acoustic neuroma is a slow-growing benign tumour of the auditory nerve. It is a rare disease and studies so far are limited by the small numbers of subjects.

Once completed, it is expected that the INTERPHONE project and its individual national studies will have examined about 1000 cases of acoustic neuroma.

An earlier published study, led by Dr Joshua Muscat of the American Health Foundation, found the risk of acoustic neuroma was unrelated to mobile phone use.

AMTA supports further research, in accordance with the WHO’s research program, to advance the science in relation to mobile phones and health and so that there is accurate information to assist people to make informed choices in relation to mobile technology and health.

 

Media enquiries: Bernadette Basell 0409 977 358

 

1. Hardell L, et al Case-Control Study on Cellular and Cordless Telephones and the Risk for Acoustic Neuroma or Meningioma in Patients Diagnosed 2000-2003 Neuroepidemiology 2005;25:120-128