The Cell Phone-Cancer Enigma: Do We Have Reason To Worry?
Alan BC Dang
January 21, 2006 3:08 AM
comment(s) - last by
Recent study claims no evidence of a link between cellphone use and cancer but results were contradictory, leading in both directions
British Medical Journal
published a paper evaluating the relationship between mobile phone use and gliomas, a type of a cancer that represents 50% of all primary brain tumors. The researchers found no evidence to support the claim that cell phone use increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with a glioma. Unfortunately this doesn't mean that we know cell phones are safe.
In this case-control study, the researchers interviewed 966 patients who had been diagnosed with a glioma in the UK. These patients were asked to recall the frequency and duration of their calls, the side of their head that the phone was used on, whether or not they used hands-free ear pieces, as well as the specific types of phones that were used. The researchers then obtained the same information from 1,716 individuals who did not have cancer. When the two groups were compared, no evidence was found to suggest that there was an increased risk of glioma compared to the cumulative number of calls and hours of use.
The researchers did however encounter interesting findings. There was evidence suggesting that there was a higher risk of developing a tumor on the same side of the brain where the phone was used. Their 95% confidence interval was 1.02 to 1.52, meaning that there was somewhere between 2 to 52% increase in risk for developing a tumor and that there was only a 5% chance that the difference could be less than 2% or higher than 52%. In parallel to this finding, they found a reduced risk of tumor when the phone was used on the opposite side of the head. This time, the range was a 7 to 39% reduction in risk with only a 5% chance that the reduction in risk was less than 7% or greater than 39%.
Despite their conclusion about having no evidence, this bit of data actually supports the claim that cell phones can be dangerous. However, the researchers write that these differences are due to recall bias because patients know the side of their brain that has cancer. Patients may be biased into reporting that they used the cell phone more frequently on the cancerous side.
This inadequate evidence for either conclusion captures the problem of a case-control study: recall bias. If you cannot trust your subjects to accurately remember which side of their heads they use their phones on more frequently, how can you trust the rest of the data? Other problems with the study were that the researchers were only able to interview 51% of the patients who they identified as having gliomas "mainly because rapid death prevented [the researchers] from approaching all of them." Finally, the researchers only looked at one type of brain tumor and not others.
In the end, the study does not give any definitive results. It simply says that evidence could not be found on whether or not cellphones were dangerous. In addition, there
statistical evidence suggesting that tumors were more likely to be seen on the same side a phone was used, although there are confounding variables that may come into play.
While a cohort study (where people are followed over time) would be better than the case-control study (where people are asked to look back in time), the nature of medical research involves doing lower-budget research first before moving on. These types of studies open the door for more expensive and bigger studies. Bottom line? More research is needed before we really know the answer.
More information on gliomas
can be found here
Hepworth SJ, et. al.
Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: case-control study. BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38720.687975.55 (published 20 January 2006)
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Welcome Alan Dang
1/21/2006 9:54:18 AM
Hahaha yeah that would be appropriate! ;)
"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
Microsoft "Hopes" Developers Will Make Xbox One Games Unplayable Offline
May 24, 2013, 12:13 PM
Federal Judge Sides with U.S. DOJ in Apple E-Books Preliminary Hearing
May 24, 2013, 11:46 AM
HTC Considers "Senseless" One Smartphone
May 24, 2013, 8:00 AM
HTC One Hits 5 Million Sales in First Month, Despite Issues
May 23, 2013, 4:04 PM
HTC First's Arrival in UK Canceled, Facebook Assesses "Home" Feedback
May 23, 2013, 3:02 PM
Microsoft Expands Windows Azure in Asia, Mocks iPad in New Commercial
May 23, 2013, 12:06 PM
Most Popular Articles
High School Student Creates Storage Device that Can Charge in 20 Seconds
May 20, 2013, 6:51 AM
Apples Tries to Use Decade-Old Patents to Ban Samsung Galaxy S IV
May 22, 2013, 3:00 PM
NASA Awards $125,000 Grant for 3D Printed Food on Long-Term Space Travels
May 21, 2013, 1:32 PM
Microsoft Announces Voice-Controlled "Xbox One"
May 21, 2013, 12:55 AM
Cure For Baldness Could Be on Store Shelves within Two Years
May 22, 2013, 8:29 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Lumosity: Does it Work?
May 22, 2013, 8:20 PM
Quick Note: Sony "Teases" PS4 Ahead of Xbox Reveal in New Video
May 20, 2013, 12:33 PM
Nokia Introduces Instagram-Like App of Its Own to Help Lumia Sales
May 20, 2013, 7:10 AM
Parents of Pre-Teen Drivers Commonly Practice Distracted Driving Says Study
May 9, 2013, 7:16 AM
Apple's iOS 7 Running Into Internal Delays Due to Massive Overhaul
May 1, 2013, 4:26 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2013 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information