Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Mobile Phones, Brain Tumors, and the Interphone Study: Where Are We Now?

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Mobile Phones, Brain Tumors, and the Interphone Study: Where Are We Now?

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND; In the past 15 years, mobile telephone use has evolved from an uncommon activity to one with > 4.6 billion subscriptions worldwide. However, there is public concern about the possibility that mobile phones might cause cancer, especially brain tumors.

OBJECTIVES: We reviewed the evidence on whether mobile phone use raises the risk of the main types of brain tumor--glioma and meningioma--with a particular focus on the recent publication of the largest epidemiologic study yet: the 13-country Interphone Study.

DISCUSSION: Methodological deficits limit the conclusions that can be drawn from the Interphone study, but its results, along with those from other epidemiologic, biological, and animal studies and brain tumor incidence trends, suggest that within about 10-15 years after first use of mobile phones there is unlikely to be a material increase in the risk of brain tumors in adults. Data for childhood tumors and for periods beyond 15 years are currently lacking.

CONCLUSIONS; Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumors in adults.

Key WORDS: brain cancer, cancer and radiation, epidemiology. Environ Health Perspect 119:1534-1538 (2011). [Online 1 July 2011]

In just 15 years the mobile phone has evolved from an uncommon, expensive, brick-shaped object used in restricted areas of Western countries to a convenient and ubiquitous part of modern life, with > 4.6 billion subscriptions worldwide (International Telecommunication Union 2010). The arrival of this mass technology has been accompanied by some public and media concern about the possibility that the radiofrequency (RF) fields emitted by the phones might cause cancer, especially brain tumors. Numerous committees have considered the evidence and recommended more research (Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones 2000; Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks 2009). Since 1999, a series of epidemiologic studies of mobile phone use and cancer have been published, mainly focused on brain tumor risks. Collectively, they have not provided evidence of a relationship, but they have had sufficient limitations to leave the question unresolved (Ahlbom et al. 2009).

The Interphone study was launched in 2000 to provide a more powerful and methodologically rigorous investigation of this issue by collecting data in 13 countries. Now, 10 years and [euro]19 million later, after much anticipation and a lengthy delay, the key results on brain tumors have been pub-lished (Interphone Study Group 2010). What should be made of them, considered along with the rest of the literature Do we now know whether mobile phones cause brain tumors? If not, how much closer are we to knowing

The Interphone Study

The Interphone study was an international, coordinated interview case-control study investigating the potential effect of mobile phone use on the risk of the two most common types of brain tumor, glioma and meningioma (and, although not yet published, also acoustic neuromas and parotid gland tumors). The study used a common core questionnaire and to some extent a common core protocol, but deviations and additions were allowed; for instance, cases were population based in most countries but hospital based in Japan and France, and controls were pair matched at nine centers but stratum matched in the other seven. These methodological inconsistencies add to the difficulty of interpreting the overall results. Nevertheless, the multicenter structure enabled a study of exceptional size: >5,000 patients with these relatively uncommon tumors were interviewed in a 5-year period--a considerable feat.

The study questionnaire asked in detail about the type and pattern of use of each mobile phone the respondent had used and about other RF exposures and brain tumor risk factors. …

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