by Martin Beckford and Robert Winnett
24 October 2009
Heavy users may face
a higher risk of developing brain tumors later in life
A £20 million, decade-long investigation
overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO)
will publish evidence that heavy users face a higher risk of
developing brain tumors later in life, The Daily Telegraph
The conclusion, while not definitive, will undermine assurances from
the government that the devices are safe and is expected to put
ministers under pressure to issue stronger guidance.
A preliminary breakdown of the results found a,
“significantly increased risk” of
some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period
of 10 years or more” in some studies.
The head of the Interphone investigation
said that the report would include a “public health message”.
Britain’s Department of Health has not updated its guidance for more
than four years.
It says that,
“the current balance of evidence
does not show health problems caused by using mobile phones”,
and suggests only that children be “discouraged” from making
“non-essential” calls while adults should “keep calls short”.
In contrast, several other countries,
notably France, have begun strengthening warnings and American
politicians are urgently investigating the risks.
The Interphone inquiry has been investigating whether
exposure to mobile phones is linked to three types of brain tumor
and a tumor of the salivary gland.
Its head, Dr Elisabeth Cardis, backed new warnings.
“In the absence of definitive
results and in the light of a number of studies which, though
limited, suggest a possible effect of radiofrequency radiation,
precautions are important,” she said.
“I am therefore globally in agreement with the idea of
restricting the use by children, though I would not go as far as
banning mobile phones as they can be a very important tool, not
only in emergencies, but also maintaining contact between
children and their parents and thus playing a reassurance role.
“Means to reduce our exposure (use of hands-free kits and
moderating our use of phones) are also interesting.”
The project conducted studies in 13
countries, interviewing tumor sufferers and people in good health to
see whether their mobile phone use differed. It questioned about
12,800 people between 2000 and 2004.
Previous research into the health effects of mobile phones, in the
short time they have been in use, has proved inconclusive. However,
a breakdown of the latest findings, seen by The Daily Telegraph,
shows that six of eight Interphone studies found some rise in the
glioma (the most common brain
tumor), with one finding a 39 per cent increase.
Two of seven studies into acoustic
neurinoma (a benign tumor of a
nerve between the ear and brain) reported a higher risk after using
mobiles for 10 years. A Swedish report said it was 3.9 times higher.
A summary said a definitive link could not be proved because
of difficulties with subjects’ memories.
An Israeli study found heavy users were about 50 per cent more
likely to suffer tumors of the parotid salivary gland.
The Interphone inquiry has faced criticism for including
people who made just one call a week, and leaving out children,
which some experts said could underplay the risks. Some results for
short-term use appeared to show protection against cancer,
suggesting flaws in the study.
The final paper, funded partly by the industry, has been delayed as
its authors argued over how to present the conclusions. But it has
been sent to a scientific journal and will be published before the
end of the year.
A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said there was “no hard
evidence at present” of harm to health. Use by children for
non-essential calls should be discouraged, he added.
A spokesman for the Mobile Operators Association said more
than 30 scientific reviews had found no adverse health effects.