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Scientists dispute cellphone study that says use doesn't increase brain tumor risk

A group of scientists from the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) are refuting a study from last summer, which said cellphones do not lead to an increase of brain cancer in children and teenagers, according to a letter published Friday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

According to the study, published in July 2011, “the absence of an exposure–response relationship either in terms of the amount of mobile phone use or by localization of the brain tumor argues against a causal association.”

However, in the journal’s “Letters to the Editor,” the EHT scientists said there is a serious risk of brain tumors associated with using cellphones, and the peer review was flawed.

Last summer’s study, conducted by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, said regular users of cellphones were not more likely to be diagnosed with brain tumors, compared to non-users, and children who started to use cellphones at least five years ago did not have more of a risk of developing a tumor compared to those who never used cellphones.

The letter’s authors said the study’s data actually indicates a 115 percent increase in brain tumor risk for children after more than two years of having a cellphone subscription. The authors said there was also an indication that the more a cellphone is used, the higher the risk becomes.

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When the study first appeared last summer, Dr. Joel Moskowitz, from the School of Public Health at the University of California—Berkeley, said, “In my opinion, the interpretation of the results from this study and the accompanying editorial were biased in an attempt to reduce concerns that cellphone use increases brain tumor risk among children and adolescents.”

In December, a commentary in the journal Environmental Health, said, “Yet, in spite of low exposure, short latency period and limitations in study design, analyses and interpretation, there are nevertheless indications of increased risk … In any case, it is to go far beyond the findings of the study to say that the results are reassuring of no significant increased risk.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer – an arm of the World Health Organization –  last year reviewed dozens of published studies regarding cellphones as carcinogenic and said cellphones are cancer-causing agents.

Shortly thereafter,  Dr. Suvi Larjavaara from the University of Tampere in Finland, wrote in the American Journal of Epidemiology that people who had used cellphones for a long period of time and used them frequently were not more likely to experience brain tumors; however, he did say the findings were not conclusive.

Click here to read more from the Environmental Health Trust. 

Click here to read more from the journal of the National Cancer Institute's 2011 study (subscription required).