There is no causal link between mobile phone use and brain cancer, a new epidemiological study by some of Australia's leading cancer specialists says.
Led by Simon Chapman, emeritus professor public health at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health, the study looked for an association between data on 19,858 men and 14,222 women diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia between 1982 and 2012 and national mobile phone usage between 1987, when cellular phones were introduced to the country, and 2012. Australia is a particularly useful source for data of this kind, as all cancer diagnoses are formally registered by law, provided an extremely comprehensive data of nationwide cancer incidence.
Chapman and his colleagues Lamiae Azizi, Qingwei Luo and Freddy Sitas modelled the age- and gender-specific rates of brain cancer incidence over the period. As mobile phone use grew, Chapman writes in The Conversation, "we found that age-adjusted brain cancer incidence rates (in those aged 20-84 years, per 100,000 people) had risen only slightly in males but were stable over 30 years in females."
Further, the slight increase in male brain cancer incidence appears only in those aged 70 and above and is a trend that began in 1982 – several years before cellular phone technology reached Australia. Chapman observes that the increase appears to be related to improved diagnostic techniques picking up previously overlooked incidents of cancer, rather than an increase in the condition itself.
The team also calculated the likely numbers of brain cancer patients that would present if mobile phones in fact did cause cancer, working from a presumed 50 per cent increase over background incidence: a highly conservative estimate based on studies that indicate a potential causal cancer risk. However, the comparison turned up no evidence for an increase in cancer even after mobile phones had been widely used for decades. Chapman writes that: "The expected number of cases in 2012 (had the phone hypothesis been true) was 1,866 cases, while the number recorded was 1,435."
While repeated studies have looked at a potential causal relationship and found similar results: that there is no link between cellular phones and brain cancer, a vocal minority of alarmist health and lifestyle pundits continue to fan the flames, making this study's sizable evidence-based contribution valuable for general health awareness.