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28/01/2011 - Top researchers advise precaution on mobile phone use

In a dramatic message in the prestigious BMJ Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, two leading Interphone researchers now advise the following: (bolding is by Powerwatch)

Simple and low-cost measures, such as the use of text messages, hands-free kits and/or the loudspeaker mode of the phone could substantially reduce exposure to the brain from mobile phones.

Therefore, until definitive scientific answers are available, the adoption of such precautions, particularly among young people, is advisable

While more studies are needed, indications of an increased risk (of gliomas - a particularly dangerous form of brain tumour) in high and long-term users from Interphone and other studies are of concern. ... Even a small risk at the individual level could eventually result in a considerable number of tumours and become an important public-health issue.

Elizabeth Cardis led the Interphone study for IARC/WHO; Siegal Sadetzki led the Israeli study. These are two world-class leading researchers into the causes of cancer.

They have produce a balanced and considered over-view of the science so far and their conclusions are given in the box above.

They note that in the Interphone study the median totalled lifetime use was around 100 hours, which represents just over 2 hours of cellphone use per month. Most users, including many children, now exceed this level of use. Even the highest exposed group (1640 total hours or more) averaged only about 27 min of phone use per day. Further studies analysing the amount and duration of use are therefore essential.

They note that in Interphone, started in 2000, the maximum duration of use among the study participants was about 12 years, and only 5 years had passed from the start of heavier use. For most known carcinogens, however, identification of increased risk of solid tumours (particularly brain tumours) has required long follow-up periods of subjects with substantial exposure. For example, while the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, an excess risk of solid tumours was reported in the survivors only in the 1960s, and no elevation in risk of brain tumours was noted for about the first 50 years.


Image courtesy Alami/Daily Mail

Will that mobile that your child or grandchild is now using be responsible for them developing a fatal brain tumour in 30 or so years time?

Who bought that phone?

Who pays for the call minutes?

Do you insist they use a hands-free headset and/or text?

Do you insist they don't sleep with it turned-on at night under their pillow?

These are questions every parent and grandparent need to ask themselves.

Many parents are ignoring current UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) and Department of Health (DH) advice that young children should only use a mobile phone if essential and are buying their young children mobile phones. It is estimated that over 50% of 5 to 7 year-olds now have been given their own handset and this rises to about 75% by age 10.

Cardis and Sadetzki admit that the "protective effect" published in Interphone (ORs less than 1.0) is unlikely and that they were probably low by up to 20%. A further analysis of the Interphone cases (only - using low users as the effective controls) resulting in ORs above 1 for glioma, but not meningioma, with indications of an increased risk with increasing duration of use, as well as among the heaviest users.

The current Department of Health Mobile Phones leaflet states that the UK CMOs strongly advise that where children and young people do use mobile phones, they should be encouraged to (a) use mobile phones for essential purposes only, and (b) keep all calls short - as talking for long periods prolongs exposure and should be discouraged. The UK CMOs recommend that if parents want to avoid their children being subject to any possible risk that might be identified in the future, the way to do so is to exercise their choice not to let their children use mobile phones.

Powerwatch calls on the Department of Health and Chief Medical Officer to urgently revise their current advice leaflet - and state that sensible precautions such as minimising calls, using a speaker phone or a hands-free headset should be employed by everyone, especially children.

They should ensure that copy of the revised leaflet is sent to every parent in the country via their schools.

Most people we speak to have never read the current DH leaflet which has now been available for ten years.

External Links

Editorial in OEM - Editorial in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Daily Mail child brain tumours - Daily Mail - As new evidence links mobile phones to a greater risk of tumours, could using one cost your child their life?
Daily Express - Half of 5-7 years olds have a phone - Daily Express - Half of 5-7 years olds have a phone
UK Department of Health mobile phone leaflet - Current UK Department of Health mobile phone leaflet

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