Using a mobile phone does not increase the risk of getting brain cancer, according to a new Japanese study published in the British Journal of Cancer* today.
In the first study to consider the effects of radiation levels in different parts of the brain, researchers found that regular mobile phone users were not at an increased risk of three types** of brain cancer.
They assessed levels of radiation in terms of the number of years since a mobile was first used, the average number of hours spent on the phone each day and which parts of the brain were most likely to be affected.
The Japanese scientists compared the history of mobile phone use in 322 brain cancer patients with 683 healthy people in Tokyo. They found that regularly using a mobile phone did not significantly affect their risk of getting brain cancer.
Lead author, Professor Naohito Yamaguchi, based at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, said: “A central challenge with previous studies looking into the link between mobiles and cancer has been how to accurately estimate how much exposure different parts of the brain receive.
“We studied the radiation emitted from various types of mobile phones and placed them into one of four categories relating to radiation strength. We then analysed how they would affect different areas of the brain areas, taking into account the organ’s complex structure.
“Using our newly developed and more accurate techniques, we found no association between mobile phone use and cancer, providing more evidence to suggest they don’t cause brain cancer.”
The use of mobile phones has rapidly increased since the 1980s but studies have shown that in this time the number of people with brain cancer has hardly changed.
Although a few studies have shown an association between mobile phones and cancer, the majority found no link. The largest study to date, involving 420,000 people, showed no link with any type of cancer, even after 10 years of use.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “So far, studies have shown no evidence that mobile use is harmful, but we can’t be completely sure about their long-term effects. Research is still ongoing and Cancer Research UK will continue to look for new evidence.”
For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
*Mobile phone use, exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic field, and brain tumour: a case-control study. T Takebayashi et al. 2008. British Journal of Cancer.
**The study looked at cases of three types of brain cancer – glioma, meningioma and pituitary adenoma – which make up around 85 per cent of all brain tumours.
Until a conclusion on the long-term health effects of mobile phone use is reached, the Government recommends that people take precautions by keeping their call times short. And children under the age of 16 should only use mobile phones for essential calls, because their head and nervous systems may still be developing.
About brain tumours
Brain tumours are relatively rare. In the UK, just over 4,100 people were diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2003. Including tumours of the spinal cord, there were about 4,300 diagnosed in the UK in 2003. That means that about 16 out of every 1,000 cancers diagnosed in the UK are in the brain or spinal cord (or 1.6%).
In most cases, the exact causes of a brain tumour are not known.
British Journal of Cancer
The BJC’s mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world’s premier general cancer journals. Visit the British Journal of Cancer homepage.
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