One year ago a line was drawn in the sand in the mobile phone debate.
The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared exposure to radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME) fields were “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.
It’s a line, University of Sydney Public Health Professor Bruce Armstrong says, that some would like to see “obliterated”.
Data published since the IARC recommendation has, if anything, cast further doubt on any link between mobile phone use and cancer.
Professor Armstrong headed Australian involvement in the Interphone study which was considered by IARC before declaring RF EME exposure possibly carcinogenic.
In 2010, Interphone reported a 40 per cent increased risk of glioma and a 15 per cent increased risk of meningioma among the heaviest mobile phone users (1640 hours over a lifetime), but not in more moderate users. Findings, Professor Armstrong said, that were not strong, and which did not prove cause and effect.
In the past year a major US study of 250,000 people looking at the incidence of glioma between 1992-2008 could not find a connection and an updated Scandinavian study also found no increase in brain tumours.
Professor Armstrong said this new data had caused scientists to question the findings of a Swedish study which reported a five-fold increase in risk of brain cancer among people who started using mobile phones as teenagers and had been doing so for more than a decade, that was also considered to reach the IARC conclusions.
“People ask whether if this (recent) analysis was done at the time IARC was considering (its recommendation), would it have come up with the same opinion? Because it gave similar weight to the Swedish study as the Interphone study and certainly some people would like to say that if the committee were to meet again in the face of this information they might make a different decision,” he said.
Ultimately, most scientists agree the jury is still out and more research is required.