New epidemiological review finds no causal association between the use of cellular phones and cancer

The Swedish Radiation Protection Authority has engaged two internationally well-known epidemiologists to review published epidemiological studies on the relationship between the use of cellular telephones and cancer risk. They are Dr. John D. Boice, Jr. and Dr. Joseph K. McLaughlin from the International Epidemiology Institute, USA.

In their review, no consistent evidence was observed for increased risk of brain cancer, meningioma, acoustic neurinoma, ocular melanoma, or salivary gland cancer, examined over a wide range of exposure measures, including type of phone, duration of use, frequency of use, total cumulative hours of use, tumor location and laterality (concurrence of tumor location with hand normally used during phone conversations).

Dr. Boice and Dr. McLaughlin have also reviewed the Swedish studies by Lennart Hardell et al., which demonstrated an association between the use of cellular phones and cancer. These and a few studies that addressed this concern in the United States are non-informative, either because the follow-up was too short and numbers of cancers too small (USA) or because of serious methodological limitations (Sweden).

In contrast, five well-designed epidemiological studies have been conducted in three countries and using different designs: three hospital-based case-control studies in the United States, a registry-based case-control study in Finland, and a registry-based cohort study of over 400,000 cellular phone users in Denmark. Dr. Boice and Dr. McLaughlin find a consistent picture from these studies that appears to rule out, with a reasonable degree of certainty, a causal association between cellular telephones and cancer to date.

Complementing the human data are the emerging results of experimental studies, which have failed to confirm earlier reports of possible adverse outcomes from radiofrequency exposure. Moreover, there is no biologically plausible mechanism to support a carcinogenic effect of non-ionizing radiofrequency waves.

Many people today worry about the possible risks associated with the use of cellular phones. While the current state of the science is reassuring, ongoing case-control studies being conducted in 13 countries using a shared protocol, and continued follow-up of cohorts of cellular phone users, should provide further evidence regarding any possible carcinogenic effect associated with long-term cellular telephone use.

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