A study published in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found no link between short-term cellular-phone use and brain cancer.
The study, conducted between 1994 and 1998, focused on 891 men and women ages 18 to 80, including 469 brain-cancer patients.
The participants were interviewed to see if they were “regular” cell-phone users that is, whether they subscribed to a cellular-phone service and they were asked about the number of years they had used cell phones, the amount of time they spent on the phones each month, the manufacturer of their cell phones and the average amount of their monthly cell-phone bill.
In addition, 700 of the 891 patients were asked which hand they had used to hold their cellular phones.
The brain-cancer patients interviewed had a median monthly usage of 2.5 hours, compared with 2.2 hours for the control group; and they had been using cell phones for a mean duration of 2.8 years, compared with 2.7 years for the control group.
“No association with brain cancer was observed according to duration of use,” concluded Joshua Muscat of the Valhalla, N.Y.-based American Health Foundation and his colleagues, the authors of the study.
Scientists have long been investigating as-yet unsubstantiated suggestions that radiation emitted by mobile phones, base stations and masts could trigger medical ailments from dizziness to gene damage, nosebleeds to nausea, Alzheimer’s disease to brain tumors.
Mobile phones emit low levels of radiofrequency radiation (RF) and energy the same signals that, in high levels, make microwave ovens work.
Hand-held mobile phones are targeted for research because of the short distance between the phone’s built-in antenna, the primary source of the RF, and the user’s head.
“The use of the handheld cellular telephones was unrelated to the risk of brain cancer in the current study,” the researchers wrote.
“The current study shows no effect with short-term exposure to cellular telephones that operate on [primarily] analog signals,” they wrote.
But, they added: “Further studies are needed to account for longer induction periods, especially for slow-growing tumors.”
“The RF fields emitted from digital cellular telephones might have different effects on biological tissue than analog telephones,” they acknowledged.
Research for the study was conducted at Memorial Sloan-Ket-
tering Cancer Center, New York University Medical Center and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York; Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I.; and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
An estimated 97 million Americans were mobile-phone users as of June 2000, up from 86 million at the end of 1999, according to the Washington-based Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.