Global Economics

Mobile Group Hits Back at Cancer Claims


An industry trade association chides as 'selective' a new study claiming a link between handset use and brain tumors

The mobile industry has hit back at a neurosurgeon's study that claimed there is evidence of a link between mobile phones and certain types of brain tumour.

According to Dr Jack Rowley, director of research for the GSM Association, Dr Vini G Khurana's study represents a "very selective review of [existing] literature", rather than an original study.

Khurana, a neurosurgeon based in Australia, recently completed a 15-month study that he posted on his website, brain-surgery.us. Entitled Mobile Phone-Brain Tumour: Public Health Advisory, the study is a meta-analysis of more than 100 other studies.

Khurana said in his study: "There is a growing and statistically significant body of evidence reporting that brain tumours, such as vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) and astrocytoma, are associated with 'heavy' and 'prolonged' mobile-phone use, particularly on the same side as the 'preferred ear' for telephony." He added: "It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public-health ramifications than asbestos and smoking, and directly concerns all of us, particularly the younger generation, including very young children."

However, Rowley told silicon.com sister site ZDNet.co.uk that Khurana's study had failed to mention some studies that had sought -- but failed -- to establish a connection between mobile-phone usage and brain tumours.

Rowley said: "If you look at the data from the animal studies it mentions in his paper, he [refers to] an Australian study in 1999 but doesn't mention two failed confirmation studies."

Rowley said: "He also fails to mention many of the other long-term animal studies, which found no overall increased cancer risk," referring to research that had been carried out with funding by the GSMA and the European Commission.

In September 2007, a study by the UK's Health Protection Agency found no evidence of short-term health damage as a result of mobile-phone use. However, it is the longer-term effects that have been most controversial.

The Interphone study -- a long-term, Japanese-run project involving mobile users from multiple countries -- has been one of the most important such research endeavours. Noting in his own work that Interphone has been partly funded by the mobile industry, Khurana quoted Interphone's authors as saying: "Risk of a tumour on the same side of the head as reported phone use was raised for use for 10 years or longer (almost twofold increased risk)".

Rowley, however, said the Interphone studies conducted up until now have shown "no evidence for risk up to 10 years of use", and claimed that, beyond 10 years, they were "too uncertain statistically to make any conclusion& at all".

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