No, Cell Phones Don't Cause Brain Cancer
Dec. 19, 2000 -- Like many Americans, Maribeth Hagan has come to depend on her cell phone more than she ever imagined she would. The Nashville, Tenn., working mom uses her phone as much as 40 minutes a day to keep in touch with her husband and two school-age daughters, as well as friends and business associates.
She says she never thought much about potential health problems associated with cell phone use until a good friend was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor a year-and-a-half ago.
"He talked on his cell phone all the time, and his tumor formed exactly where you would expect it to from using a cell phone," she says. "I don't know if it is related, and I still use my cell phone a lot, but I don't think there has been enough research to say that cell phones are completely safe."
With close to 100 million Americans now regularly using cellular telephones and more than 500 million users worldwide, questions about their safety remain. The wireless industry has assured customers for years that the phones are completely safe, and now an industry-funded study from the American Health Foundation of Valhalla, N.Y., suggests that this is the case.
The analysis, published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no difference in cell phone usage patterns among brain cancer patients and people without the disease.
"While you can't draw definitive conclusions from any one study, these findings provide some assurance that there is no cancer risk associated with cell phone use," lead author Joshua E. Muscat, MPH, tells WebMD. "This is one of several studies that are ongoing, both here and in Europe, that will ultimately answer the question of whether there is any cancer risk with using cell phones."
The study should reassure the hundreds of millions of people who regularly use cell phones that short-term risks are minimal, says John D. Graham, PhD, founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at Harvard University. But he says that no study can yet address possible long-term risks of cell phone use because the technology is too new.
"It is still an open question whether there are health risks associated with cell phone use for 10, 20, or even 40 years," Graham tells WebMD. "But given all the health concerns that families have today, I would say that I don't think use of cell phones ranks particularly high on the list."
In this study, Muscat and his colleagues examined cell phone usage among 469 men and women diagnosed with brain cancer and 422 people without brain cancer. All participants were interviewed between 1994 and 1998 and were questioned about whether they used cell phones at all, the type of phone used, amount of usage per month, year of first use, and total years of cell phone usage.