Cell Phones Don't Increase Brain Cancer Risk: Study

Exposure to the radio frequency waves used by cell phones doesn't increase the risk of developing brain cancers, a new study suggests.

British researchers found that there was only a very slight increase in certain types of brain cancers in England between 1998 and 2007, and the rise could have been due to pure chance.

"Our findings indicate that a causal link between mobile phone use and cancer is unlikely because there is no evidence of any significant increase in the disease since their introduction and rapid proliferation," study researcher Dr. Frank de Vocht, of the University of Manchester in England, said in a statement.

If anything, cell phone radiation could only promote growth in an existing tumor, De Vocht said, though the study did not examine this aspect of cancer development.

The new study was published today (Feb. 17) in the journal Bioelectromagnetics.

An insignificant increase

Researchers from Oregon and Philadelphia who also worked on the study found a small increase in cancers of the brain's temporal lobe. The prevalence of these cancers rose by 0.6 cases for every 100,000 people, between 1998 and 2007.

But in men, brain cancers of the brain's parietal lobe, cerebrum and cerebellum fell slightly during the time period, the researchers said.

"It is very unlikely that we are at the forefront of a brain cancer epidemic related to mobile phones, as some have suggested," De Vocht said.

Even if the slight increase in brain cancers was found to be caused by cell phone use, it would account for less than one additional cancer case per 100,000 people in a decade.

Researchers chose the 1998 to 2007 time frame because the cell phone boom occurred in the early 1990s. Between 1990 and 2002, cell phone use in the United Kingdom went from 0 percent to 65 percent of households, so the study takes into account cancers that would take 5 to 10 years to develop, they said.

Looking at the proof

There is no proof that cell phone radiation, called radiofrequency radiation, causes cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. X-ray energy, also known as ionizing energy, can increase cancer risks , but there's no evidence that non-ionizing energy, which is what's emitted from cell phones, has the same hazards, the National Cancer Institute said.

Past studies have examined the relationship of cell phone radiation and cancer, with conflicting results. One large study, conducted by the National Cancer Institute and published in 2001 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that people who used cell phones didn't have a higher risk of brain tumors than people who didn't use cell phones. That study included 800 people with brain cancer and 800 people without the disease.

A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology also showed no association between cell phone use and two common brain cancer types.

But a 2008 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that heavy cell phone users had a 50 percent increased risk of cancer of the salivary glands, compared to people who didn't use cell phones.

Pass it on: Cell phone radiation is not associated with an increased risk in brain cancer.

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Live Science Staff
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