Mobile phone users ‘do not have increased risk of brain tumours’

The use of mobile phones does not increase the risk of brain tumours, new large-scale research has shown.

In a study of more than 776,000 women, there was no elevated risk of developing tumours in those who had used mobile phones every day over two decades.

Longstanding fears around the impact of mobile phones on the brain have been reignited following the launch of 5G wireless technologies.

Most of the studies that have investigated this potential connection have been retrospective in nature, whereby individuals report mobile phone use after a diagnosis of cancer, meaning that the results may be biased.

Now, scientists from Oxford Population Health and International Agency for Research on Cancer have shown in their large-scale study that there is no increased risk of brain tumours in mobile phone users, compared to those who have never used one.

The researchers used data from the UK Million Women Study: an ongoing study that recruited one in four of all UK women born between 1935 and 1950.

Around 776,000 participants completed questionnaires about their mobile phone usage in 2001; around half of these were surveyed again in 2011. The participants were then followed up for an average of 14 years through linkage to their NHS records.

Phone use was examined in relation to the risk of various types of brain tumour: glioma (a tumour of the nervous system); acoustic neuroma (a tumour of the nerve connecting the brain and inner ear); meningioma (a tumour of the membrane surrounding the brain); and pituitary gland tumours.

The research showed that by 2011, almost 75 per cent of women aged between 60 and 64 years used a mobile phone, and just below 50 per cent of those aged between 75 and 79 years.

Over the 14-year follow-up period, 3,268 of the women developed a brain tumour, with the researchers concluding that there was no significance difference in the risk of developing a brain tumour between those who used mobile phones and those who did not.

Additionally, there was no increase in the risk of developing any of the different types of tumour for those who used a mobile phone daily, spoke for at least 20 minutes a week or had used a mobile phone for over 10 years.

Kirstin Pirie, a study co-investigator from Oxford Population Health’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit, said: “These results support the accumulating evidence that mobile phone use under usual conditions does not increase brain tumour risk.”

Although the findings are reassuring, the researchers acknowledged that it remains unclear whether the risks associated with mobile phone use are different in those who use mobile phones considerably more than was typical of women in the study cohort.

In the study, only 18 per cent of phone-users reported talking on a mobile phone for 30 minutes or more each week. And the research did not include children or adolescents, but scientists elsewhere have investigated the association between mobile phone use and brain tumour risk in these groups, not finding any link.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at Oxford University Hospitals, said: “This study from Oxford is a welcome addition to the body of knowledge looking at the risk from mobile phones.

“It is a well designed, prospective study that identifies no causal link but does recognise that there may have false correlations arising from previous studies that are retrospective in design.

“This study should allay many existing concerns.”

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