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Is there a link between brain cancer and using mobile phones?

There is no proven link between using mobile phones and developing cancer. At the same time, we don´t have any proof to say that using mobile phones does not increase our risk of developing cancer. At the moment, we just don't know...

This is a question that regularly pops up in the News and research is being done to try and answer this question. A recent study that looked into this in Sweden, found that people who had used mobile phones had a higher risk of developing a brain cancer called Glioma. But it’s not as simple as that because the study didn’t say whether there might be other reasons why people developed brain cancer, for instance if they had been exposed to chemicals or perhaps worked in an occupation that might also increase their risk of brain cancer. Also, the research was looking back 25 years and asked people to remember details about their mobile phone use, and of course our memory isn’t always correct. Particularly if someone has been diagnosed with brain cancer they may think that they used a mobile phone more than they actually did because they want an explanation for why they developed brain cancer.

So, although there are studies that may find connections between brain cancer and using mobile phones – this doesn’t mean that using mobile phones is causing brain cancer to develop. So even in studies where people who have developed brain cancer have used mobile phones a lot in the past – we don’t have any evidence to say that it was the use of mobile phones that was the reason for them developing brain cancer. There may be other factors that we don’t know about that have caused the brain cancer in these people.

So, the bottom line is that at the moment, there is no proven link between using mobile phones and developing cancer. At the same time, we don’t have any proof to say that using mobile phones does not increase our risk of developing brain cancer or indeed other types of cancer. The thing we worry about in mobile phones is the exposure to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields and they are also produced by other wireless devices. We have not used these devices to the extent that we're doing now for very long so we don’t really know much about the possible health risk after 15 years or more usage. Therefore, the current advice from the Department of Health is that children and young people under 16 should be encouraged to only use mobile phones when it’s really important and they should only speak on the mobile for a short time. It is also a good idea to use a hands-free kit and texting instead of calling because this gives us less RF exposure.

This article was first published : 2.12.2014

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