Cellphones cancer scare `not proved'
Tuesday 25 May 1999
The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) reviewed the Swedish research presented last night on BBC Panorama and found no significant increase in the risk of brain tumours in users of cellphones.
"The new Swedish study does not indicate an overall raised risk of brain tumours associated with mobile phone use," the NRPB said yesterday. "It lacks statistical precision to draw conclusions on specific aspects of phone use and tumour location."
The latest scare was triggered by a press release from the BBC publicising the programme and an interview with Lennart Hardell, a researcher from the Orebro Medical Centre in Sweden.
The press release says: "Dr Hardell's study looked at brain tumour sufferers and found a correlation between phone use and cancer. He found that for those who used their mobile on the right side of the head the risk of getting a brain tumour increased by almost two-and-a-half times, and those who used their mobile on the left side increased by almost two-and-a-half times as well."
The NRPB said: "These findings were not statistically significant and were based on small numbers of cases who used mobile phones (eight and five respectively)."
Dr Hardell said he is concerned about the time people spend on mobile phones particularly young people because they might be more sensitive to the risks.
He added: "There is a biological indication that there is a problem which should be studied much more. I think that until we have the definite conclusion, the definitive results of much larger studies, we need to minimise exposure to human beings."
But his research paper shows only a "non-significantly increased risk" was found to link brain tumours at the side of the head with mobile phones.
The research paper also states: "In this study we did not find an overall increased risk for brain tumours associated with exposure to cellular phones ... The results were based on low numbers and must be interpreted with caution."
The study questioned 209 people with brain tumours to see which used mobile phones and for how long. They were compared with 425 people who did not have brain cancer.
The NRPB said: "Information on the use of mobile phones was obtained using questionnaires that were completed by these persons; no information was collected from telephone companies."
Panorama also cited unpublished research in America allegedly showing an "increased risk of getting a type of rare brain tumour", according to the BBC. But Tom Wills-Sandford, a spokesman for the Federation of the Electronic Industry, said that research had been seen by the US Food and Drug Administration, responsible for investigating health effects of cellphones.
"The FDA's response to this mobile phone research was not to alter its position on the health effects," Mr Wills-Sandford said. "Based on the totality of the science there is nothing to link mobile phones with human health concerns."
The only published study to assess the effects of mobile phones on the human brain found the radiation emitted from cellphones did not cause memory loss but appeared to improve reaction time slightly.
Dr Alan Preece, of Bristol University, who led the research, said the effect was particularly noticeable with older analogue phones, which emit more powerful microwaves than digital phones.
He said the effect may be the result of the phone's microwave radiation causing a "slight warming" of the brain leading to an increased flow of blood.
Other studies indicated changes in the brain cells of rats and the animals' ability to perform memory tasks.
Model Level of
absorption rates (SAR)
Nokia 2110 0.44
Bosch World 718 0.33
Nokia 6110 0.29
Ericsson GA628 0.26
Motorola V3688 0.02
TAC 70 0.02
Safe emissions level is 10 SARs
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