Cell Phone/Brain Cancer Connection Getting Weaker.
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 7, 2001 -- It may finally be time to hang up that fear about cell phones causing cancer.
Danish and American researchers, in the most comprehensive study to date investigating the purported link between cellular telephone use and cancer, say they have found no evidence to support any such connection. Still, other experts tell WebMD that they want to see more long-term data before pronouncing the issue settled.
"We conducted a comprehensive study of the nearly half a million cellular telephone subscribers in Denmark from 1982 onward," researcher John Boice, PhD, scientific director of the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Md., tells WebMD. By running each person's identification number through the national medical database, the team determined which, if any, had developed cancer. "We found no evidence for any increases of any cancers," he says.
Boice's findings and an accompanying editorial are published in the Feb. 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
According to Boice, the whole scare goes back eight years to a Larry King Live guest. David Raynard held that his wife's deadly brain tumor had been caused by her extensive cell phone use, and "that raised public concern" over the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones.
Since then, there have been several studies, both here and abroad, "but there's just not a lot of epidemiological evidence to confirm that these radiofrequencies cause any cancers whatsoever," says Boice, who is also a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
The Danish study focused on brain cancer, salivary gland cancer, and leukemia. Boice explains that the brain, salivary glands, and blood are the areas where electromagnetic radiation exposure would be the greatest during cell-phone use.
The researchers found 3,400 cases of cancer among the half million cell-phone users -- fewer than the 3,800 expected to occur in any group that size. Specifically, there were 150 brain cancers, seven salivary gland cancers, and 84 cases of leukemia -- all about what you'd expect to see, he says, if not a bit lower.
Thanks to meticulous cellular service provider records, "we were able to determine the risk of cancer by the number of minutes someone was on the phone," says Boice. "You'd anticipate that someone using the phone a couple hours a day would be at higher risk than someone who used the phone a couple minutes a day, but we found no gradient in risk by minutes of use."
What's more, says Boice, two other recent, well-conducted U.S. studies -- one by the National Cancer Institute, the other by the American Health Foundation -- "were both negative." Neither revealed a cell phone/cancer link.
With so much data refuting any risk, why are people still afraid?