While cordless and mobile phones have made our lives easier, a recent study is reporting an increase in the risk of developing brain tumors with cumulative use of cordless and mobile phones.
Wireless communication exposes a person to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Exposure of the brain to RF-EMF occurs while using both cordless phones and mobile phones. The increased exposure, due to widespread use of mobile and cordless phones, has led to an increase in concern regarding the health risks associated with RF-EMF exposure. Of particular concern is the exposure to children, who have smaller heads and thinner bones in the skull, which increases their relative exposure.
A recent study has pooled data from two separate case-control studies of malignant brain tumors. The patients were diagnosed between 1997-2003 in one study and 2007-2009 in the other study. In all, 1498 cases were assessed, with 3530 control cases.
The results of the study demonstrated that use of cordless and mobile phones increases the risk of brain tumors, glioma in particular. The study reported that the risk of glioma was tripled in people who used wireless phones for 25 years or more. In addition, the risk was also greater for those who began using wireless phones before the age of 20. The increased risk was found to be cumulative, with an increase in risk from increasing hours of use.
According to the WHO fact sheet on radiofrequency exposure, the exposure decreases when using a mobile phone away from the body (30-40cm), as is common when either texting or using hands free. Under these circumstances the radiofrequency exposure will be much lower, suggesting that relative risk of negative effects can be reduced by reducing the amount of time the device is held directly against the head.
While there is still no definitive proof that use of mobile phones causes brain tumors, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, mobile phones have been classified as potentially carcinogenic. However, more long term studies are needed, especially since exposure to mobile phones is occurring at a younger age, increasing the lifetime exposure to radiofrequency. The World Health Organization aims to carry out a formal risk assessment of radiofrequency fields emitted by mobile phones by 2016.
Hardell, L, Carlberg, M. “Mobile phone and cordless phone use and the risk for glioma – Analysis of pooled case-control studies in Sweden, 1997–2003 and 2007–2009” Pathophysiology DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pathophys.2014.10.001
WHO Fact Sheet “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones” Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/Last Accessed: Jan 15, 2015.
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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD