Link between cell phones and childhood brain cancer gets no reception

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The findings of the newest study on the link between childhood brain cancer and cell phone use will be a dropped call to those convinced that heavy cell phone users are a few minutes away from developing cancer. Nevertheless, the case-control study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, interviewed about 350 children aged seven to 19 who were diagnosed with a brain tumor between 2004 and 2008; these children were compared with 645 control patients without brain cancer, in order to determine if the cancers could be linked to cell phone use. The researchers led by Dr. Martin Roosli, an assistant professor with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland found that regular cell phone users were no more likely to develop a brain tumor that those who never used one. "The lack of an exposure-response relationship, given our finding that risk was related to neither the amount of mobile phone use nor the location of the tumor, does not support a causal interpretation," said Dr. Roosli.

His results are consistent with the findings of other, larger studies, most notably the Interphone study, which found no increased risk of glioma or meningioma with cellphone use, except at an "implausible" level of use. (And in some settings, cell phones were even found to be protective against cancer, a clear demonstration of the lack of useful data for either conclusion.) Yet the Swiss researchers seemed to downplay their own findings when they reported that they cannot rule out the possibility that mobile phones confer a small increase in risk."

People who are zealous advocates of a particular theory, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, will challenge scientists with such empty statements. However, you can't prove a negative. Such a question is akin to saying, well, you can t prove that the sun won t rise in the West tomorrow or, perhaps more appositely, that no one can prove vaccines don t cause autism. We rely on the copious data showing no evidence that these things can occur in the real world.

In the meantime, for those who are still not convinced that their cell phones don t pose a cancer threat, a prospective study called COSMOS is underway; it will follow European cell phone users over the next 20 years to determine if their cell phone use can be linked to adverse health outcomes. Dr. Ross response: Text me when it s over.