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6/4/2020  
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HEALTH
Links between mobile phones and cancer

Heavy mobile usage can increase the risk of brain cancer

The MOBI-KIDS study is interviewing thousands of young people to work out if there is a link between mobile phone use and brain cancer in children.

A study found that more than two-thirds of people in the EU believe their health is affected to some extent by mobile phone masts and mobile phone handsets. Now researchers are trying to proof the evidence.
Redacción 25/11/2013 Send to a friend
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After leukaemia, brain tumours are the second most common cancer type in young people under 20 years of age. Risk factors include exposure to ionizing radiation, family history of brain tumours, and some rare medical conditions. Exposure to chemicals and to electromagnetic fields may also be associated with the risk of brain tumours, although this is still uncertain. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the use of communication technologies, particularly among young people, and there is growing concern about their potential health effects.

An important limitation of the studies of brain tumours in young people to date has been the limited number of children and adolescents included. Although the frequency of brain tumours has tended to increase in young people over recent decades, it is fortunately still a rare disease. 

Previous studies have not found any strong links between mobile phones and cancer
, but according to Professor Elisabeth Cardis at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain, that may be because brain cancers are rare, and because heavy phone usage is a fairly recent phenomenon. ‘The fact of not seeing a trend does not mean there is no risk,’ she said. ‘It means if there is a risk, perhaps you haven’t had enough statistical power to be able to see it.’

Prof. Cardis coordinates, a study that aims to find out whether more data will uncover a link. Backed by the EU’s FP7 funding programme, the project is drawing on expertise from 16 European and non-European countries to discover if children who spend a lot of time on the phone are more likely to develop brain tumours.

Next year, researchers will complete the first major stage of MOBI-KIDS, which has involved interviewing some 6000 young people between 10 and 24 years of age. One-third of the people are those with brain tumours, while the remaining two-thirds are control cases: people who are the same age and sex as counterparts in the first group, but who have not been diagnosed with brain cancer.

The interviews will explore the amount and the ways in which the subjects have used mobile phones. If mobile phones do increase the risk of brain cancer, then there ought to be marked differences between the two groups in terms of their past mobile phone usage.

Heavy usage

MOBI-KIDS is not the first study to investigate the effect of mobile phones on health. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded there was ‘limited’ evidence that heavy usage – defined then as 30 minutes a day for 10 years – increased the risk of brain cancer.

Prof. Cardis expects the first results from MOBI-KIDS to be ready by 2016 to proof that mobile phones can cause brain cancer.

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