Study finds no link between phone masts and childhood cancers

Pregnant women living close to mobile-phone base stations are at no greater risk of having children who develop cancer, researchers have found.

The first study to examine the effects of the 81,000 phone masts across Britain on mothers-to-be has found no link with early childhood cancers such as leukaemia, which is thought to be triggered in the womb, and brain tumours. The study, by researchers at Imperial College, London, is the most detailed yet of the claimed link between phone masts and childhood cancer.

Reports of clusters of cancer cases among families living close to the masts led to demands that the masts be moved. But the numbers involved have been too small, and the risks of a biased selection of cases too high, to draw firm conclusions. Paul Elliott, professor of epidemiology and public health medicine, said the big advantage of the new study was that it was nationwide and not focused on areas where there was concern about cancer risk.

"We looked at the exposure of the child at the birth address and nine months before," he said. "So we were effectively looking at the exposure of the foetus. Within the limitations of the study, these results are reassuring."

The increase in mobile phone use – from 9 million handsets in 1997 to 74 million in 2007 – has raised worries about the effects of exposure to low-frequency radiation. Several studies, including the Interphone study involving more than 10,000 people from 13 countries that was published last month, have found no damaging health effects from mobile phones themselves.

Public anxiety about transmitters has grown despite the level of individual exposure from transmitters being much lower than from mobile phones.

For the study, Professor Elliott and colleagues identified almost 1,400 children aged up to four who were registered with leukaemia or a brain or nervous-system tumour between 1999 and 2001. Then the distance of each patient's birth address from the nearest base station was estimated.

The authors admit the study examined only early childhood cancer and not other potential health effects said to be linked with mobile phones. However they concluded: "The results of our study should help to place any future reports of cancer clusters near mobile-phone base stations in a wider public-health context." John Bithell, of the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford, said doctors should reassure parents not to worry about the masts.

"Moving away from a mast, with all its stresses and costs, cannot be justified on health grounds in the light of the current evidence," he said. There was also no evidence that has shown any biological effects of mobile phone radiation that "might lead us to worry about its health effects," he added.

The radio waves produced by mobile phones are non-ionising, unlike ionising X-rays which are known to cause cancer. They are also not strong enough to damage DNA molecules. So there is no known mechanism according to which mobile phone radiation can cause brain tumours.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is the latest to exonerate mobile phones, and the masts that transmit their signals, of health damaging effects. But researchers cannot prove a negative, and say that there is no evidence of a cancer risk.

It remains possible that future studies, conducted over a longer period or in a different way, may reveal a hitherto unsuspected danger. One limitation is that mobile phones have only been in mass use for about 15 years.

Mobile phones: Myth & reality

* The biggest risk posed by mobile phones is to people driving cars who may be distracted by them, even if they are using the devices in hands-free mode.

* There is no reason to suppose that mobile phones have any adverse effects. But children are more vulnerable to agents such as cigarette smoke, lead and radiation and the same could concievably be true of mobile phone signals.

* It is impossible to rule out the possibility that cancer caused by exposure to mobile phones could appear in a few years. Most cancers take longer than 10 years to develop.

* However, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of mobile phones has biological effects on cells. The radio waves produced by the handsets are non-ionising, unlike ionising X-rays which are known to cause cancer.

* Worries about the effects of mobile phones on the brain and on biological processes, indicated in some earlier research, have been tested and found to be baseless.

* The largest and most detailed study yet into the health risks posed by mobile phones – the Interphone study published last month – failed to find a link between the devices and brain cancer.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform