The Grapevine

Brain Tumors And Cell Phone Use Found To Be Linked (Again)

Cell Phones and Cancer
A study has found that cell phone usage may be linked to a higher risk of developing glioma, a type of brain tumor that is often deadly. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Cell phones do a lot for us. They allow us to talk, text, email, chat on social meda. And they may just put you at a higher risk for developing brain tumors, according to a new study in the new science journal, Pathophysiology.

The study, conducted in Sweden, found that Swedes who talked over cell or wireless phones for over 25 years were at three times the risk of developing glioma, a brain tumor that is often malignant, than those who used them for less than a year. Those who used them between 20 and 25 years were two times more likely. The study compared the cell phone usage of 1, 380 people diagnosed with malignant brain tumors to people without, finding that those who talked the most on wireless phones at a rate of over 1,486 hours were two times more likely to develop glioma compared to those who talked for least at a rate of less than 122 hours. No other type of brain tumor was linked to cell phone usage in the study, according to Reuters.

“The risk is three times higher after 25 years of use. We can see this clearly,” oncologist Dr. Lennart Hardell from the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden and the lead researcher in the study, told Reuters.

The results of the study also oppose those belonging to the 2010 international Interphone study, the largest study on the subject to date. The International Agency for Research on Cancer did not find strong evidence to link wireless phone usage to a higher risk of developing brain tumors. The study was partly funded by cell phone users.

But the risk, even if it were to increase, would still be low, according to a 2012 study in the European Journal of Cancer, which found that five in 100,000 Europeans between 1995 and 2002 were diagnosed malignant brain tumors of any kind. That is 0.005 percent, meaning triple that rate would only be 0.016 percent.

And the new study is limited, relying on details by all participants of their cell phone usage in the last 10 years. It also does not establish how or why the cell phones usage causes the increase.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Why did I get this brain tumor?’” neurosurgeon Dr. Gabriel Zada from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine told Reuters. “There are a lot of different theories. It’s a much more convoluted picture than just saying cell phones caused this.”

Zada, who was not a part of the study, says that further research is needed to truly verify these findings.

“It is more evidence suggesting a possible association between brain tumors and cell phones,” he told Reuters. “But it’s certainly not convincing that cell phones cause brain cancer.”

Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, which is absorbed by tissues that are close to where a person holds their phone when speaking, according to the National Cancer Institute Website, though it also maintains that no study has yet to establish a legitimate link between cell phone usage and various cancers.

"Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck. More research is needed because cell phone technology and how people use cell phones have been changing rapidly," said the website.

Cell phone usage among Americans increased by three times the amount between 2000 and 2010, according to Wireless Association CTIA, which represents manufacturers. But journal Neuro-Oncology reported in 2010 that parts of the brain vulnerable to radiofrequency energy from cell phones did not experience a rise in cancer, according to Reuters.

The World Health Organization has also examined such a link with a panel of 31 scientists from 14 countries labeling it in 2011 as "possibly carcinogenic." The Federal Communications Commission is also reanalyzing the safe radiation exposure limits it put in place in 1996, according to Reuters.

Herdell though believes that cell phones are still a risk, especially for children who he says are likely to take in more radiofrequency energy due to their smaller heads, thinner skulls, and higher amounts of brain activity, according to Reuters.

“Girls tends to put the smart phone below the pillow,” he told Reuters. “It’s a bad habit to go to bed with your smart phone.”

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