[LINK] Re: EMF and health

Stewart Fist stewart_fist at optusnet.com.au
Tue Jan 23 10:39:33 AEDT 2007

>From Dr Louis Slessin of Microwave News
(in the interests of disclosure, he's a old friend of mine)

An international team of researchers has found new evidence that long-term
use of a mobile phone may lead to the development of a brain tumor on the
side of the head the phone is used. In a study which will appear in an
upcoming issue of the International Journal of Cancer, epidemiologists from
five European countries report a nearly 40% increase in gliomas, a type of
brain tumor, among those who had used a cell phone for ten or more years.

The increase is statistically significant. In addition, there was a trend
showing that the brain tumor risk increased with years of use. The new paper
is posted on the journal's Web site.

This is the second type of tumor that has been linked to long-term cell
phone use. In 2004, the Swedish Interphone group reported a doubling of
acoustic neuromas among people who had used a mobile phone for ten years or

The new study, part of the 13-country Interphone project, is based on the
data collected in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the U.K. Last year,
the German Interphone team also reported an increase in gliomas following
more than ten years of mobile phone use. (See our report: "Is There a
Ten-Year Latency for Cell Phone Tumor Development?")

The new five-country study included 1,521 glioma cases and 3,301 controls.
There were 143 cases with ten or more years of mobile phone use. The earlier
German study had only 12 cases who had used a cell phone for at least ten

Another research group, led by Lennart Hardell of Örebro University and
Kjell Hansson Mild of the National Institute, both in Sweden, have also
found an increased risk of brain tumors and acoustic neuromas following ten
years of cell phone use.

"The [new] study shows that the issue is not settled and that more data,
preferably prospective data, are needed," Anders Ahlbom of the Kaolinska
Institute in Stockholm told Microwave News.

Anssi Auvinen of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) in
Helsinki, a member of the Finnish Interphone study team offered a similar
conclusion. "We need more research on long-term use," he stated in a press
release issued today.

In fact, on Saturday, the London Times revealed that Lawrie Challis, the
head of the U.K. research effort on mobile phones and health, known as MTHR,
is in the final stages of negotiations for a study of 200,000 mobile phone
users who will be monitored for cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
diseases. The story appeared on the front page of the January 20th Times.
"We know from smoking and from the bomb falling in Hiroshima that nothing
was seen for ten years," Challis told the BBC.

Ahlbom said that the planned study, disclosed by Challis, will be a joint
effort of an international consortium consisting, at present, of
epidemiologists from Denmark, Finland and Sweden, as well as the U.K.

The London Times ran a companion article under the headline: "Could These Be
the Cigarettes of the 21st Century? ... 'Absolutely'." And in an editorial,
the Times applauded the decision to carry out the new long-term study: "The
precautionary principle still applies here. Manufacturers should welcome the
new study."

At this writing, the cell phone industry had yet to issue any responses to
these new developments. But Sheila Johnston, a consultant based in London
with close ties to the mobile phone industry, circulated an e-mail this
morning calling Challis's announcement a "very sad outcome."


My Comments:

There are more than two questions here.
The first is whether there is an increase in gliomas in cell-phone users,
and the answer appears to be statistically Yes.

The second is : Does that mean that the cellphones caused the gliomas?

The implication here is that they did, because of the claim that the cancers
occurred on the side of the head that the cellphone was being used, and also
that it was statistically related to years of use.

This is the bit I would be wary about, and it illustrates the need for very
strict blind test procedures.

If people suspect that their brain cancer has been caused by cellphone use,
then they will tend to report that they used their phone on this side of the
head -- that's human nature -- especially if the medical specialists are
offering them no other rational explanation as to why they have a brain
tumour, and others don't. They look for a reason, and often invent one in
the process. 

Even those without cancer are totally unreliable witnesses as to the side
they use their phone on.  People almost always report that they use
cellphones on the side opposite to their writing hand (presumably so they
can take notes).

But if you record cellphone head-side-use through street observations, it is
about 50:50 ... and yet we know that 7 out of 8 people are right handed.
So, in fact, for much of the time there is little correlation between
handedness and side-of-head exposure.

And without this side-of-the-head relationship with glioma, then the
statistical relationship loses a lot of its cause-effect order.  It could be
that gliomas are caused by something else which is in the environment of
people who use cellphones a lot.

The early adoption (10 or more years) of the group studied seems to suggest
that the group may have high incidence of say, specialist occupations - eg
tradesmen, like plumbers, who were early adopters of cellphones; telephone
linesmen (who I discovered were using their mobiles for up to 5 hours a day
as a link to the exchange while baling out wires).

Or it could be that gliomas are a disease of the affluent consumer.  The
second major group to take up cellphones were business executives.

This is obviously an important study -- and a precautionary cry -- but I'll
remain (uncomfortably) on the fence for a while longer.

Stewart Fist, writer, journalist, film-maker
70 Middle Harbour Road, LINDFIELD, 2070, NSW, Australia
Ph +61 (2) 9416 7458

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