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Lloyd Morgan's Column

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The Latest Study on the Risk of Brain Cancer From Wireless Phone Use1

This commentary is about the latest Hardell et al. scientific study on the risk of brain cancer from wireless phone use. It is the 13th in a series of papers published by this team [1-12]. Although every one of these studies has shown a risk of brain tumors from wireless phone use (cell as well as cordless), the findings in this study are the most alarming yet.

The findings are alarming for three reasons:

First, because they flow from a study of the worst type of brain tumors: those collectively referred to as "brain cancer" (e.g., gliomas, astrocytomas, glioblastoma multiforme--AKA GBM--etc.). The survival statistics for these tumors are very grim (e.g., one year GBM survival is 29%) and the devastating effects, even if there is survival, can be heartbreaking including loss of physical, emotional and mental abilities.

Second, this study is alarming because it shows an increased2 risk of brain cancer no matter how examined the wireless phone use was examined: Whether by cumulative hours of use, by years of use, by use of the wireless phone on the same side of the head as the tumor, or by types and/or combinations of wireless phones used.

Third, because these results show an extraordinarily short latency time from the first use of a wireless phone to the diagnosis of brain cancer. This short latency time has been seen in almost all of the studies done by this team and has been confirmed in 5 out of 7 of the cellphone industry-funded Interphone studies [13-17].


1 Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlberg, Kjell Hansson Mild , Pooled analysis of two case-control studies on use of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for malignant brain tumours diagnosed in 1997-2003; Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2006 Mar 16
2 Throughout this commentary I report the increased risk of a brain tumor. The science papers report OR (odds ratio, the odds that a case will have a brain tumor compared to a control). Thus, an OR=2.0 is equivalent to a 100% increased risk of a brain cancer.


Let me elaborate on some of the findings from this study.

Hardell's. study looked at 905 cases of brain cancer, ages 20-80, diagnosed between 1997 and 2003 with 2,162 controls matched by age, sex, Social Economic Index (SEI, a measure of wealth) and year of diagnosis. These 905 cases are the combined results of two previous studies [7,12].

Again, it bears repeating, no matter how this study examined the risk of brain cancer from wireless phone use (analog cellphones, digital cellphones and cordless phones) it found a substantial increased risk of brain cancer:

  • Analysis by cumulative hours of use:
    As can be seen in the following graph the increased risk of brain cancer grows as the number of cumulative hours grows, regardless of the kind of wireless phone used.
Increased cancer risk based on hours of phone usage
  • Analysis by years of use:
    The graph below shows that there is an increased risk even for a very short period of time (1 to 5 years), then increases dramatically for longer periods of time.
Increased cancer risk based on years of phone usage
  • Analysis by use of wireless phone on the same side of the head as tumor:
    The side of the head where a wireless phone is used is where the brain absorbs most of the phone radiation. Once again, as has been found in many other studies including the industry-funded Interphone studies, [15, 16, 17] there is an increased risk of brain cancer on the same side of the head as phone usage.
Increased cancer risk based on phone side of head
  • Analysis for type of wireless phone use and for combinations of types of wireless phones:
    Every phone type shows an increased risk of brain cancer. And with a combined use of wireless phone types, there is an even greater risk. As can be seen in the following graph there is just no such thing as a safe wireless phone.
Increased cancer risk based on phone tye used

It is clear that the Hardell et al. study provides yet more worrisome evidence of the health risks of unmitigated cellphone use. However, as concerning as these latest findings certainly are, the most troubling aspect of the Hardell et al. study is that of the early latency times it is demonstrating with regards to cellphone exposure. It is well known that the time from exposure to a carcinogen to the diagnosis of a tumor takes decades (25 to 40 years), yet we are seeing an increased risk of brain cancer for as short as 1 to 5 years and a broad consensus from all studies for use of more than 10-years.3

Could the implication be then, that what we are seeing is actually the tail of a 25 to year latency time distribution?


3 Seven of the nine industry funded Interphone studies have shown a risk of brain tumor where cellphone use is 10 or more years.


References

  1. Hardell et al., Use of cellular telephones and the risk for brain tumours: A case-control study; Int J Oncol. 1999 Jul;15(1):113-6
  2. Hardell et al., Use of cellular telephones and the risk for brain tumours: A case-control study; Int J Oncol. 1999 Nov;15(5):1045-7.
  3. Hardell et al., Case-control study on radiology work, medical x-ray investigations, and use of cellular telephones as risk factors for brain tumors; MedGenMed. 2000 May 4;2(2):E2
  4. Hardell et al., Ionizing radiation, cellular telephones and the risk for brain tumours; European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2001, 10, 523-529
  5. Hardell et al., Cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for brain tumours; European Journal of Cancer Prevention: Volume 11(4) August 2002 pp 377-386
  6. Hardell et al., Case-control study on the use of cellular and cordless phones and the risk for malignant brain tumours; Int J Radiat Biol. 2002 Oct;78(10):931-6
  7. Hardell et al., Further aspects on cellular and cordless telephones and brain tumours; Int J Oncol 2003 Feb;22(2):399-407
  8. Hardell et al., Vestibular schwannoma, tinnitus and cellular telephones: Neuroepidemiology. 2003 Mar-Apr;22(2):124-9
  9. Hardell et al., Use of cellular telephones and brain tumour risk in urban and rural areas; Occup Environ Med 2005;62:390-394
  10. Hardell et al., Cellular and Cordless Telephone Use and the Association with Brain Tumors in Different Age Groups; Arch Environ Health. 2004 Mar;59(3):132-7
  11. Hardell et al., Case-control study on cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for acoustic neuroma or meningioma in patients diagnosed 2000-2003; Neuroepidemiology. 2005;25(3):120-8.
  12. Hardell et al., Case-control study of the association between the use of cellular and cordless telephones and malignant brain tumors diagnosed during 2000-2003; Environ Res. 2006 Feb;100(2):232-41.
  13. Lönn et al., Mobile Phone Use and the Risk of Acoustic Neuroma; Epidemiology Volume 15, Number 6, November 2004: 653-659
  14. Schoemaker et al., Mobile phone use and risk of acoustic neuroma: results of the Interphone case-control study in five North European countries; British Journal of Cancer (2005), 1 -7.
  15. Hepworth et al., Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: case-control study; BMJ. 2006 Jan 20.
  16. Lönn et al., Long-Term Mobile Phone Use and Brain Tumor Risk; Am J Epidemiol 2005;161:526-535.
  17. Schüz et al., Cellular Phones, Cordless Phones, and the Risks of Glioma and Meningioma (Interphone Study Group, Germany); Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Mar 15;163(6):512-20.