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Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: case-control study

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20 January 2006

Today’s publication of a UK population-based case-control study of gliomas in the British Medical Journal is the latest in a series of studies published as part of internationally coordinated INTERPHONE project¹.

By way of background, gliomas, a type of brain tumour, are relatively rare.  Each year, about 7 are diagnosed for every 100,000 people in the UK. There are about 4,300 new patients every year. Tumours of the brain account for 1.6% of all cancers in England and Wales.

In the present large study, the authors reached the following conclusions:

Use of a mobile phone, either in the short or medium term, is not associated with an increased risk of glioma.

Overall, we found no raised risk of glioma associated with regular mobile phone use and no association with time since first use, lifetime years of use, cumulative hours of use, or number of calls.

We note that this result is consistent with most of the previous studies in this field and the significant body of research reporting no health risk from using mobile phones.

As already mentioned, this study is part of a 13 country INTERPHONE project coordinated by the WHO body, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC). The data from national studies is being published separately. As these diseases are rare, large numbers of subjects are needed for accuracy and IARC will follow with an overall or ‘meta’ analysis involving the combined data from all the countries.  Therefore, it is necessary to wait for the results of the combined analysis which is expected later this year.

INTERPHONE studies of mobile phone users in Denmark and Sweden have been published separately and reported no increase in brain tumour among mobile phone users².

An epidemiological review for the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute (SSI) in 2002 found no evidence for a causal link between the use of mobile phones and cancer. The review examined a wide range of exposure measures, including type of phone, duration of use, frequency of use, total cumulative hours of use, tumour location and laterality (concurrence of tumour location with hand normally used during phone conversations).

The mobile phone industry takes all questions regarding the safety of mobile phones seriously and we have a strong commitment to supporting ongoing scientific research – such as the INTERPHONE project. This particular project is being funded by the mobile phone industry jointly with governments and national health agencies in a way that ensures the complete scientific independence of the work carried out.

It is also important to note that all mobile phones sold comply with international health and safety exposure guidelines.

¹.Sarah J Hepworth, Minouk J Schoemaker, Kenneth R Muir, Anthony J Swerdlow, Martie JA van Tongeren, Patricia A McKinney, Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: a UK case-control study, available from: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/current.shtml

and for Denmark see Collatz Christensen et al Cellular telephones and risk for brain tumors: a population-based, incident case-control study. Neurology 64 (7): 1189-1195, 12 April 2005 at http://www.neurology.org/: For SSI see: Boice and McLaughlin. Epidemiologic studies of cellular telephones and cancer risk a review.  Swedish Radiation Protection Authority 2002 at

61% of UK adults access the internet from mobiles

Mobile phones cannot work without a network of base stations (masts). There are approximately 52,500 base station sites (excluding microcells) in the UK. Only a third of these are large, free standing masts. A YouGov survey for MOA (Sept 2014) showed that nearly 8 out of 10 people recognise the link between masts and good mobile coverage. Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2015 61 per cent of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households.

No Established Health Effects

Mobile phones operate by using radio waves, similar to those that have been widely used for decades, for example in radio, TV and radar signals. A large number of studies over the last two decades have found no clear evidence of adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones or from phone masts.