Calling the tremendous growth in cell phone use the “biggest experiment of our species,” attendees at a scientific conference held in London last week have called for more independent research into the possible connection between cell phones and brain cancer. According to a report from the U.K.’s Daily Mail, in calling for more study, attendees at the Children with Cancer conference highlighted recent findings from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, which show a 50 per cent increase in frontal and temporal lobe tumors between 1999 and 2009.
The conference was headed up by Professor Denis Henshaw, emeritus professor of human radiation effects at Bristol University in the U.K.
“Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and they could be a time bomb of health problems – not just brain tumors, but also fertility, which would be a serious public health issue,” he told the Daily Mail. “‘The health effects of smoking alcohol and air pollution are well known and well talked about, and it’s entirely reasonable we should be openly discussing the evidence for this, but it is not happening.”
As we’ve reported previously, the body of research that has examined a possible association between cell phones and cancer continues to be inconclusive. However, last year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to classify cell phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans after reviewing hundreds of human and animal studies. As we’ve reported, the IARC’s review included the 2010 INTERPHONE study, which found that the heaviest cell phone users experienced a 40 percent higher risk for gliomas, the most common type of brain tumor.
Professor Darius Leszczynski, of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, told the Daily Mail that the IARC decision should raise concerns.
“One has to remember that IARC monographs are considered as ‘gold standard’ in evaluation of carcinogenicity of physical and chemical agents,” Leszczynski said. “If IARC says it so clearly then there must be sufficient scientific reason for it, or IARC would not put its reputation behind such claim.”
Leszczynski added that he would use the conference to urge for a stronger IARC classification – ‘probably carcinogenic’.
According to the Daily Mail, studies done to date are almost evenly split on the question of cell phones and brain cancer. But according to Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, the balance changes if funding sources are considered. Around three quarters of studies that have found no health risks have been sponsored by the mobile phone industry.
As such, the main message to come out of the conference is that more independent research of the risk is needed.
“We cannot and do not say there is a causal link between brain cancer and mobile phones, but we are right to consider them as one possible explanation for the increase and the public have the right to expect that this is properly investigated,” Henshaw said. “Even if the risk is still only one in a million, with 5 billion phone users, it means a lot of extra brain cancers.”