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According to an article recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), cell phone use does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of low-grade glioma. However, these results need further study before they are accepted as a definitive conclusion regarding the relationship between cell phone use and brain tumors.

Brain CancerConnect 490

Approximately 20,000 individuals are diagnosed annually in the U.S. with cancer that originates in the brain. There are several different types of brain cancer; they are distinguished by the cells in the brain where the cancer originates, the extent of spread, aggressiveness of the cancer, and characteristics of the cancer.

Gliomas are the most common type of brain cancer. Low-grade gliomas are slow-growing gliomas, while high-grade gliomas are more aggressive gliomas. Prognosis for gliomas, particularly high-grade gliomas, remains poor.

Much interest has been generated regarding the possible relationship between cell phone use and the risk of developing brain tumors. Speculation has linked radiofrequency fields and mobile phones to DNA damage and the ultimate formation of cancer. However, no large studies have demonstrated a clear association between cell phone use and an increased risk of brain tumors.

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Researchers from England recently conducted a study to further evaluate a possible association between cell phone use and the risk of gliomas. This study included 966 individuals who had been diagnosed with a glioma between 2000 and 2004 and 1,716 individuals who had not been diagnosed with a glioma (control group). The participants were from five different areas of England. Researchers collected information through personal interviews.

  • There was no increased risk of developing glioma among individuals who regularly used cell phones.
  • Risk was not influenced by time since first use of a cell phone, accumulated lifetime years cell phone use, overall number of calls, or hours of use.
  • Among cell phone users, there was an increased risk of developing glioma on the side of the head in which the individual tended to use the cell phone; however, there was a decreased risk of developing glioma on the opposite side of the head. The researchers believe these results may be due to the individual’s interpretation of how they used their cell phones instead of actual risks.

The researchers conclude that it does not appear that regular cell phone use is associated with an increase in the risk of developing gliomas. However, these results should be interpreted with caution as individuals in this study tended to have low-grade gliomas (those with high-grade gliomas tended to not be available for interview due to death); as well, the researchers are not completely confident in their explanation of increased and decreased risks of gliomas on different sides of the head posed by cell phone use.

Brain Cancer Newsletter 490

Reference: Hepworth S, Schoemaker M, Muir K, et al. Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Glioma in Adults: Case-Control Study. British Medical Journal (BMJ). doi:10.1136/bmj.38720.687975.55 (published 20 January 2006).