Cell Phone Cancer Study Inconclusive

Many studies have been conducted on links between <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/diseases">cell phone usage and cancer, with seemingly conflicting results. Now, says Reuters, these results form the largest study, to date, but the results point to deeper problems in this sort of research.

Advocates, cancer specialists, and manufacturers have been following the research for about 10 years, seeking answers in the eagerly anticipated findings, said Reuters. The Interphone study was led by the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC). Sadly, the study did not provide the answers sought, with experts explaining those possible errors and biases resulted in the study appearing unreliable, said Reuters, which also noted that these issues—according to the researchers—are difficult to both avoid and adjust.

“This was a very complex study, and results were very difficult to interpret because of a number of methodological issues,” said Elisabeth Cardis at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, quoted Reuters. Cardis led the group of 21 international scientists involved in the research. Jack Siemiatycki, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Canada, described the outcome as “ambiguous, surprising and puzzling,” also quoted Reuters.

Some blame the way in which the research was conducted.

Interphone was an “epidemiological case-control study” explained Reuters that first looked at specific cases—for instance, people diagnosed with brain tumors—and used controls (cancer-free patients), then collected anecdotal information, such as how much mobile phone usage they experienced in prior years, said Reuters. While such case-control research is helpful in determining a disease’s link to lifestyle or exposure, the study can be linked to biases, which can deem results unreliable, explained Reuters. Nearly 13,000 people were covered in Interphone.

One problem, said Reuters, is that those involved who were diagnosed with a brain tumor, might have participated because of overarching beliefs that their tumors were caused by their mobile phone usage, thus affecting recollection of actual cell phone use and behaviors. “It is possible that the participants did not provide an accurate portrait of cell phone usage,” said Siemiatycki, one of the study’s scientists, quoted Reuters.

“Recall bias,” another problem, occurs when participants do not accurately remember how long they spent on their phones, said Reuters which can happen because the study did not take place in real time. “All these things are estimates, and sometimes people don’t estimate very well,” said Cardis. “We also know that heavy users tend to overestimate, and light users tend to underestimate,” Cardis added, quoted Reuters.

There is also the issue of study quality, which has been cited in prior research. For instance, pointed out Reuters, studies on say, asbestos exposure, might also take into account other documentation and data, which increases study objectivity.

We recently wrote that the BBC announced that the largest study of its kind on mobile telephone use will commence in London with some 250,000 mobile phone users from five European countries over 20-30 years. That study, entitled Cosmos, is a cohort study that will look at a variety of illnesses, including different cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, headaches, depression, tinnitus, and sleep disorders, according to the BBC. The Cosmos project will be prospective, which means the study will review true phone use, noted the BBC. Usage, not numbers dialed, will be analyzed as will the use of WiFi, cordless and mobile telephones, and baby monitors to better understand the impact of electromagnetic radiation, said the BBC. Initial findings are expected in five years.

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