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Children's Health

Cell Phone Towers Aren't Linked to Cancer

Study Shows Kids Don't Face Cancer Risk if Moms Lived Near Towers During Pregnancy
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 23, 2010 -- Scientists in the U.K. say they can find no association between the risk of early childhood cancers and a mother’s exposure to transmissions from cell phone towers during pregnancy.

Previous reports of apparent cancer clusters near cell phone towers are hard to interpret due to possible biases that could have affected the results, according to researchers led by Paul Elliott, MBBS, PhD, FMedSci, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the Imperial College London.

The researchers say this is the first study to look at cell phone towers, known as base stations, and possible effects.

Use of cellular phones has increased significantly in recent years, raising questions about possible health effects, including brain cancer and other cancers.

Childhood Cancer and Cell Phone Towers

Researchers at Imperial College London examined childhood cancers such as brain tumors to see if they could find a relationship between the diseases and the proximity of pregnant women to cellular base stations.

They analyzed 1,397 British children from birth to age 4 who had been registered in public databases as having been diagnosed with leukemia or a tumor in the brain or central nervous system between 1999 and 2001.

They also studied the location of all base stations across Britain from 1996 to 2001.

Then they estimated:

  • Distance in meters of each child’s birth address from the nearest base station.
  • Total power output of the facilities within 700 meters of the birth address.
  • Power density for each birth address that was within 1,400 meters of the base station.

The researchers found no correlations, though they concede that their focus was on early childhood cancers and did not include longer-term effects or other potential effects on health that have been associated with the use of cell phones.

“The results of our study should help to place any future reports of cancer clusters near mobile phone base stations in a wider public health context,” the researchers write in the study, published on bmj.com.

Public Concern High

John Bithell, DPhil, MA, from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford, writes in an accompanying editorial that doctors and health care providers should reassure parents not to worry about the proximity of base stations.

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