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New evidence indicates a clear increased risk of brain cancer for longer term cell phone use.
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetism (EMF) as a Group 2B carcinogen in 2011: "Possibly carcinogenic to humans." This was based upon research showing cell phones connected to an increased risk for glioma, a malignant form of brain cancer. Other types of brain cancer included in the research have been meningioma and schwannoma.
However, the Group 2B classification of carcinogen doesn't mean there is a definite link. This has created significant doubt among many agencies and health officials around the world.
Even with this declaration, a number of agencies around the world have announced that cell phones are not linked to cancer. In light of the WHO's classification, this seems to be a hasty conclusion. Especially in light of some 2017 research.
The hasty conclusion
The reason this is a hasty conclusion relates to the delay in cancer diagnosis from the point of causation. Let's use an example. Many people will smoke cigarettes for 20 years or more without necessarily getting lung cancer. In fact, the link between smoking and lung cancer is delayed. It is a latent link. It takes decades of tobacco use to typically see the resulting lung cancer. For some it might be only a decade, but for many it might be two or three decades before they will get lung, throat or oral cancer.
Apparently, this latency also occurs between cell phone use and brain cancer, especially among adults. Cell phones have only come into our lifestyles in a big way over the past decade or two. So how could a health agency say with certainty that cell phone use isn't linked to an increased risk of cancer so soon in the game?
In fact, most of the epidemiological studies that were reviewed by most of these agencies were done between 2000 and 2010. That barely offers a decade of use.
New evidence links brain cancer and cell use
A 2017 study from Sweden’s Örebro University brought together an ongoing meta-analysis of brain cancer research since 1965. The researchers also conducted this review study in 2013 and 2015. This research focused upon studies that investigated long-term cell phone use.
The conclusion from the 2013 study was:
"Based on the Hill criteria, glioma and acoustic neuroma should be considered to be caused by RF-EMF emissions from wireless phones and regarded as carcinogenic to humans, classifying it as group 1 according to the IARC classification. Current guidelines for exposure need to be urgently revised."
The "Hill criteria" refers to the World Health Organization's classification of a cancer link. This is based upon a premise proposed by Dr. Bradford Hill to the British Royal Society of Medicine in 1965. This is where the "Group 2B" classification criteria comes from.
In other words, the 2016 study indicated a revision of the cancer classification for cell phone use from Group 2B ("Possibly carcinogenic to humans") to Group 1 ("Carcinogenic to humans").
The 2017 study included additional research and calculations, which indicated further evidence of a link between brain cancer and cell phone use.
Re-examining previous research
The Swedish researchers reviewed all the earlier research and recalculated the results using the random-effects model. This is a peer-reviewed form meta-analysis now accepted among epidemiology researchers. This utilizes cumulative measures - in the case of cell phone, total estimated hours of phone use - tied to the particular condition to calculate the risk factor.
When the researchers recalculated the shorter-term risk among earlier studies, they found up to a 90 percent increased risk of brain cancer from long-term cell phone use.
When they utilized data from the cell phone companies on hours of cell phone usage to recalculate the risk from a 2011 study, they found that long-term cell phone use increased the risk of brain cancer among children (aged 7 to 19 years old) by more than double (215 percent) for those who had used cell phones for more than 2.8 years.
The researchers combined research for adults between 20 and 80 years old and recalculated the risk. They found an increased risk overall after 10 years. For 1,640 hours of cell phone use, the researchers found the risk of brain cancer more than doubled (218 percent). This was for brain cancers that occur on the same side of the brain as the cell phone is typically used.
Large studies point to the evidence
The raw research studies these conclusions are drawn from are significant.
For example, a 2014 study from France's INSERM tracked 447 brain cancer cases along with 892 matched control subjects. They found that life-long accumulated use almost tripled the risk of gliomas (289 percent) and meningiomas (257 percent). Temporal tumor risk was even higher, and higher for occupational cell phone risk.
A 2015 study from Sweden followed 1,498 brain cancer cases along with 3,530 control subjects. They found that a latency of more than 25 years produced triple the risk of brain cancer (300 percent).
A 2013 study from the University of Oxford’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – followed 791,710 middle aged-women for seven years – after they reported their cell phone use in 1999, 2005 and 2009. The research discovered 51,680 invasive cancers and 1,261 central nervous system cancers during the period.
Increased meningioma risk was found for long-term use. In addition to this, compared to non-cell phone users, the long-term (10+ years) use of cell phones increased the risk of acoustic neuroma by two-and-a-half times.
According to the research, these risks also increased as cell phone use increased – making the risk “dose-dependent.”
When a risk is dose-dependent, it validates the causation element of the study. It means that the longer a person uses the cell phone, the greater the risk.
Study tracks meningioma
With regards to meningioma, a more recent study from Swedish researchers, published in this July’s Environmental Health Journal, also found minimal increased risk from increased cell phone use.
This study tracked 709 meningioma patients and compared them with 1,368 control subject subjects. They compared mobile phone usage among both groups, and analyzed the data using a latency period – the amount of time from tracked usage - of 25 years.
Here the researchers found, once again, little increased risk – but some. And the risk appeared to increase with increased cell phone use.
Two periods of use – between one and five years and over twenty-five years, showed an increased risk of meningioma by 30% among those who used wireless phones over a 25 year period.
In the highest-use quartile, wireless and mobile phone use resulted in a higher risk of meningioma, by 30% for mobile phones and 40% for wireless phones, and 80% increased risk for cordless phone use.
The increased risks was found to be related primarily to those who used their phones equivalent to about 40 minutes a day for 10 years, equated to 2,376 hours of cumulative use.
The researchers stated that:
“There was a statistically significant trend for increasing cumulative use of 3G mobile phones, cordless phones, phones of the digital type (2G, 3G and/or cordless phone), and wireless phones in total.”
They also noted that there was more than a seven times increased risk for high-use 3G cell phone use. But this was considered not significant because it was based on only five users.
And previous studies have also exposed this risk among long-time users. As stated in a 2013 recent review in the Journal of Pathophysiology:
"Studies carried out in Sweden indicate that those who begin using either cordless or mobile phones regularly before age 20 have greater than a fourfold increased risk of ipsilateral glioma."
It only makes sense to consider a headset or using the speaker system available on most new cell phones. What's the risk in that? Maybe it doesn't look as cool, but hey, when has being healthy ever looked cool?
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