Fresh phone cancer fears still a tough cell for scientists
Call for state action as new study links mobiles to a rise in an aggressive type of brain tumour
Fresh fears have been raised over the role of cellphones in brain cancer after new evidence revealed rates of a malignant type of tumour have doubled in the past two decades.
UK charities and scientists have called on the government to heed longstanding warnings about the dangers of radiation after a fresh analysis revealed a more “alarming” trend in cancers than previously thought.
However, the new study, published in the Journal of Public Health and Environment, has stoked controversy among scientists, with some experts saying the disease could be caused by other factors.The research team set out to investigate the rise of an aggressive and often fatal type of brain tumour known as Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). They analysed 79,241 malignant brain tumours over 21 years, finding that cases of GBM in England have increased from about 1,250 a year in 1995 to just under 3,000.
The study is the first recent effort of its kind to analyse in detail the incidence of different types of malignant tumours.
The scientists at the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE) say the increase of GBM has until now been masked by the overall fall in incidence of other types of brain tumour.
The group says the increasing rate of tumours in the frontal temporal lobe “raises the suspicion that mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”.
Professor Denis Henshaw, scientific director of Children with Cancer UK, which is allied to PHIRE, said: “Our findings illustrate the need to look more carefully at, and to try and explain the mechanisms behind, these cancer trends, instead of brushing the causal factors under the carpet and focusing only on cures.”
In 2015 the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks concluded that, overall, the epidemiologic studies on cellphone radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation exposure do not show an increased risk of brain tumours or of other cancers of the head and neck region.
This was despite a study published the previous year indicating long-term mobile and cordless phone use triples the risk of brain cancer, although this contradicted other similar investigations.
According to Cancer Research UK, it is “unlikely” that cellphones increase the risk of brain tumours; however “we do not know enough to completely rule out a risk”.The organisation cautions that because cellphones are a relatively recent invention it may take many more years until data is sufficient to make more robust conclusions.
Responding to the new research, Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said the significance of the trend may be less clear cut than the research group claims. But he added: “This research does point to something that may well be worth investigating further.
“Other studies in other parts of the world have found similar increases. It’s important, though, to understand that this new paper did not examine any new data at all about potential causes for the increase.”
The new study lists causal factors aside from cellphone use that may explain the GMB trend, including radiation from X-rays, CT scans and the fallout from atomic bomb tests in the atmosphere.
© The Daily Telegraph