A new study of 350,000 mobile phone users has found no link between mobile use and incidence of brain cancer.
The Danish study, which follows months of argument over the possible risks of wireless communication devices, does not include people who use mobile phones in their work.
The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) in the UK has said the study “lacks statistical precision” and is not conclusive, though Cancer Research UK has noted that it provides “the strongest evidence yet” for the safety of mobile phones.
Mobile healthcare or mHealth is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical technology, and experts such as health consultant David Lee Scher have recognised its potential to enable ‘participatory medicine’.
Led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark, the new study looked at 350,000 mobile phone users over 18 years. It found no increased incidence of gliomas and other brain cancers.
The researchers said their study could not rule out potential risks to children and to people whose work includes heavy mobile phone usage.
Hazel Nunn, Head of Evidence and Health Information at Cancer Research UK, said the Danish study provided “the strongest evidence yet that using a mobile phone does not seem to increase the risk of cancers of the brain in adults.”
However, the NRPB, which advises the government on radiation safety, said the study was not large enough to be conclusive.
Two specialists interviewed in a recent Panorama programme said their own studies indicated cause for concern. Dr Lennart Hardell (Sweden) reported finding a strong correlation between location of brain tumours and the side of the head used for mobile phone calls. Dr George Carlo (USA) said his study indicated an increased risk of a rare type of brain cancer.
Dr Carlo commented: “This is not black and white... we have moved now into a grey area that needs to be looked into very, very carefully.”
In May 2011, a Council of Europe committee declared mobile phone usage to be “potentially harmful” and called on governments to “take all reasonable measures” to reduce their use, particularly in schools.
Shortly afterwards, the World Health Organisation included mobile phones in the same “possibly carcinogenic” category as lead and car exhaust fumes, and called for further research. The Danish study is a major step in that process.