The reason of brain cancer connection

There is no link between long-term use of cell phones and increased risk of brain tumors – at least according to research just published in the British journal BMJ. In what is being described as the “biggest ever” study on the subject, scientists in Denmark reviewed data on the entire Danish population age 30 and older and born in the country after 1925, which included nearly 360,000 cell phone users, over an 18-year period. After comparing rates of cancer of the brain and central nervous system between long-term cell phone users and non-users, they found no evidence of increased cancer risk, even among people who had been using their phones for more than 13 years.

The results are certainly reassuring, but are they right?

The Debate Over Cell Phones and Cancer

This new study is just the latest loop in the cell phone-cancer roller coaster: Previous research on the subject is extensive – and conflicting. In 2006, for example, Swedish scientists announced that an hour of daily cell phone use over the course of a decade could increase a person’s risk for developing brain cancer by as much as 240 percent. But earlier that same year, British researchers who collected data on cell phone users found no such link – to any type of cancer.

That’s just one example of the mixed messages we’re getting from cell phone-cancer research. In the last nine months alone, there have been at least five studies or reports related to the effects of cell radiation on brain tumor growth, each contradicting or complicating the results of a study that came before.

In February, British researchers at the University of Manchester released data that found that mobile phones were not likely to increase the risk of brain tumors, as there had been no significant change in the number of cancer cases diagnosed since cell phones were introduced. Four days later, scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that brain activity was higher in the areas closest to a phone’s antenna, although whether the effect was good or bad was unclear.

Then, in May, a World Health Organization (WHO) panel officially classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic” – the same category that includes the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust. That announcement was followed by a June report in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which suggested that people who used their phones often and for 10 years or more were at higher risk for developing gliomas (a type of brain tumor). But a month later, in July, Swiss researchers released results of a study that found that cell phone use did not pose a cancer threat to children, who are generally thought to be most at risk.

Confused? You’re not alone.

Cell Phones and Cancer: Should You Be Concerned?

The fact is, even experts can’t seem to come to any definitive conclusions. In each of the aforementioned studies, the authors noted that although their results were accurate, their conclusions were not likely to end the debate over whether cell phones cause brain tumors. In fact, the only thing everyone can agree on is that more research is needed. “[The results] must be put into the context of the 15 or so previous studies on mobile telephones and cancer,” Anders Alhbom, PhD, and Maria Feychting, PhD, MD, professors at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Sweden, write in an accompanying editorial for the latest Danish study. “Evidence is reassuring, but continued monitoring of health registers is still warranted.”

“You have to look at a wide range of patients and people,” says Rahul Jandial, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. “When you’re looking at statistics, you don’t always find conclusive results right away.” Complicating matters, he adds, is the fact that a lot of these studies are looking at different types of tumors (not just cancerous growths in the brain), so results are bound to be mixed. His personal belief, however, is that cell phones are safe – an idea which he says science seems increasingly to support.