Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Study suggests mobile phone-brain tumour link

The findings contradict British, Dutch surveys

A Bluetooth hands-free earpiece may be the best way to avoid the health hazard of a mobile phone.


The results of a study, conducted at the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, raise renewed fears that a prolonged use of mobile phones may increase the risk of brain tumours. Researchers examined the patterns of cell phone use by over 2,000 cancer patients and an equal number of healthy persons. Of the 905 patients who suffered from a malignant brain tumour, one in 10 was a heavy mobile phone user. For the purposes of the study, `heavy use' meant more than 2,000 hours of use — about 10 years of an average use of over one hour a day. Mobile phone users have 3.7 times the risk of developing brain cancer as non-users. What is more, there is twice the chance of the tumour occurring on the side of the head where the phone is held.

The results were published in the online edition of the "International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health" on March 16. Kjell Hansson Mild, who led the study, recommends: "Everyone should use hands-free mobile phones.... This will lower what is called the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) value, the amount of radiation absorbed by the brain, by a factor of hundred... and also improve hearing."

The Swedish findings fly in the face of the studies conducted recently in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which came to the opposite conclusion.

A study, conducted by four British Universities and published in the January 20, 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal, concluded that there was nocause-and-effect relation between the cell phone use and brain tumours. The Dutch Health Council also came to a similar conclusion last year, collating reports worldwide.

Studies conducted at the School of Environmental Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, however, have tended to agree that intensive cell phone use, especially as practised by young people, may lead to cancer.

While scientists may argue about the sanctity of one set of results versus another, lay users may decide to be "better safe, than sorry." Here too, scientists do not agree: The (U.K.) Consumer Association has said the wire connecting the mobile phone to the hands-free earpiece could act as an aerial and send an occasional strong current into the ear.

This would suggest that the safest solution might be one of those wireless hands-free models working on Bluetooth technology, in which there is no connecting cable at all. This is the type used in many cars. But such safety comes at a price: a wireless hands-free kit costs Rs. 2,500 in India.

(Reference: "Pooled analysis of two case— control studies on use of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for malignant brain tumours diagnosed in 1997 - 2003." Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlberg and Kjell Hansson Mild. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health; Springer Online; March 16, 2006.)

Source: Anand Parthasarathy - The Hindu

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