Now that the published results of the Interphoine study are out there is a media feeding frenzy in reporting on the findings. Here are two examples, from the Times and the Scotsman from the UK. Note that the Scotsman article claims that “in Australia children are advised to use mobiles only in emergencies”. This is NOT true and illustrates why hurriedly written media articles have to be taken with a grain of salt!
Nevertheless, even with the significant limitations of Interphone, it is no longer possible to claim that there is no evidence of harm, especially for heavy users and children. Precautionary policies are now called for.
From The Sunday Times
May 16, 2010
Heavy mobile users risk cancer
PEOPLE who use their mobile phones for at least 30 minutes a day for 10 years have a greater risk of developing brain cancer, a landmark study has found.
The chance of suffering from a malignant tumour is increased by more than a third with prolonged use, according to a long-awaited report by the World Health Organisation.
The outcome of the 10-year Interphone study — the largest of its kind, compiling research from 13 countries — has been eagerly anticipated by both the phone industry, which contributed substantially to its funding, and campaigners who warn of radiation risks from handsets.
Its results, which will be published this week, show that only those in the “heaviest user” category are at increased risk of developing glioma tumours, a type of brain cancer.
This category, however, includes anyone who regularly uses their handset for more than 30 minutes a day.
They concluded that there was no increased risk of cancer in other users.
However, the report is expected to spark a row over the validity of its findings.
The scientists have admitted that more research will be needed because of their broad categorisation of heavy phone use and also because phone users under the age of 30 were excluded from the study.
Interphone scientists defined a “regular” mobile user as anyone making one call a week over a six-month period.
The average mobile phone use of those in the study was between two and 2 1/2 hours a month.
“Today mobile phone use has become much more prevalent and it is not unusual for young people to use mobile phones for an hour or more a day,” the scientists said in a statement.
Some of the questions raised by the Interphone research are puzzling. The statistics appear to show that at lower levels of usage, mobile phones actually protect against cancer, something that even the study’s authors reject as implausible.
Critics of the Interphone study, which was based on interviews with more than 5,000 brain cancer victims, claim omissions and errors have left it deeply flawed.
They believe that the propensity of mobile-phone radiation to cause cancer is much greater than the study shows.
A new piece of research, backed by the European Union, has been launched to investigate possible links between brain tumours in children and mobile phone use.
Study links mobile phone use to brain tumours
Published Date: 16 May 2010
By Mark Smith
A MAJOR international study has found a link between mobile phone use and
certain brain tumours.
Now leading scientists have called for restrictions on children’s access to
mobiles and stricter government advice to adults on their use.
The £15 million Interphone study, due to be published on Tuesday, was backed
by the World Health Organisation and took ten years to produce.
It is set to show “a significantly increased risk” of some brain tumours
“related to use for a period of ten years or more” of mobile phones.
However, some scientists have raised doubts over the study’s methods.
PARENTS have been warned to restrict their children’s mobile phone use after
a global study found a link between the most common brain cancer and
prolonged use of the devices.
The results of the Interphone study, to be officially released on Tuesday,
will include some evidence that those who regularly hold long conversations
on handsets are at increased risk of developing potentially fatal tumours.
However, the study is set to spark controversy amid claims that research
methods used could have skewed the results.
Despite the row, the findings are expected to prompt the government to
update its health advice on mobile phones use, which has remained unchanged
for four years.
Usage among children has increased dramatically in the past decade but
current advice only says use should be “discouraged” in the very young.
The World Health Organisation commissioned the research, which took 10 years
and examined the habits of 12,800 phone users.
According to reports, the study concludes prolonged mobile phone use over a
10-year period created a “significantly increased risk” of a type of brain
tumour called glioma, prompting the call for restrictions on use among the
Dr Siegal Sadetzki, one of the 13-nation team of researchers, said: “Most
studies, including ours, show something happening in long-term users. Why
shouldn’t we take some simple measures to limit exposure just to be on the
Dr Elisabeth Cardis, who headed the Interphone research project, added: “I
am in agreement with restricting use by children, though I would not go as
far as banning mobiles.”
The results have been seized on by campaigners who claim a link between
mobile phones and cancers. Professor Denis Henshaw, head of the Human
Radiation Effects Group at Bristol University, has been a long-term critic
of allowing children unrestricted mobile phone use. He said: “Why should it
come as a surprise that pressing mobile phones to people’s ears increases
the risk of brain tumours? These findings are completely as expected from
“Children are known to be more vulnerable and we need to take action to
protect them. The challenge now is how we respond. Burying our heads in the
sand is asking for trouble.”
The project includes some studies that appear to show a rise in the risk of
brain tumours linked to mobiles. Israeli studies included found heavy users
were at least 50 per cent more likely to suffer tumours.
Two more studies reported a higher risk after using mobiles for 10 years. A
Swedish report said it was 3.9 times higher.
A summary of the results stated: “Pooling of data from Nordic countries and
part of the UK yielded a significantly increased risk of glioma related to
use of mobile phones for a period of 10 years or more on the side of the
head where the tumour developed.”
But the scientists who contributed to the decade-long, £15 million project
are likely to face criticism that, despite the time and expense involved in
their work, the data obtained is inconclusive and susceptible to error.
At the start of the project, it was known that radio-frequency radiation
emitted by mobiles is absorbed by the body, much of it by the head when the
handset is held to the ear. But research into whether frequent mobile phone
use damages health had proved inconclusive, mainly because the technology is
Between 2000 and 2004, researchers therefore interviewed tumour sufferers
and those in good health – 12,800 in total – to see if their mobile phone
Some of the studies that have been published individually showed increased
risk of glioma – the most common type of brain tumour – among those who
talked on a mobile for about 30 minutes a day for 10 years. Many who
developed the tumours saw them grow on the same side of the head as they
held their handsets.
Interphone will hold back from asserting that mobile phones cause cancer as
it ruled the evidence was not conclusive and also because of questions over
Its definition of “mobile phone user” included people who only made one call
a week, and many fear that accurate results cannot be obtained by asking
people to recall how often they used their mobile phones, and to which ear
they held them, several years prior to being surveyed.
It has been claimed the positive results could be explained by “recall bias”
as people who have developed brain tumours are likely to believe they must
have been caused by something, such as their previous use of mobile phones.
The final results of the study, a quarter of which was funded by the mobile
phone industry, has been delayed for four years while the authors argued
over how to present the conclusions but will be published in a scientific
journal this week.
It will call for more research, particularly among the young, and also warn
that more frequent use among the world’s four billion mobile phone owners
means that exposure to radiation is now far higher than the data used in
Despite its limitations, Interphone remains the largest study carried out
into the safety of mobile phones, so health ministries worldwide and the
billion-pound telecommunications industry are likely to rely heavily on its
The Department of Health has not updated its guidance for more than four
years and only suggests children should be “discouraged” from making
“non-essential” calls while adults should “keep calls short”. Many countries
are already moving to restrict mobile use among the young.
Tougher rules abroad
In the UK there are no restrictions at all on mobile phone use among
The UK department of health advises that calls should be kept short but
there are no legal barriers to children talking for hours if they wish.
In France operators must offer parents text message only models so that
children can keep in touch without putting the phones to their ears.
In Germany low emission phones which have special blue angel mark on them
must be made available to children.
In Australia children are advised to use mobiles only in emergencies.[not true]
In Israel the government have gone further, officially discouraging the use
of mobiles in public places or on trains and buses due to fears over health
risks. However, other countries have urged users to buy hands-free sets or
send texts rather than making calls, or to ban advertising of phones aimed