16 November 2019
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Do mobile phones cause brain cancer?

Dr Ross Walker
27 September 2019

Over the past two decades there has been an ongoing debate as to the safety of mobile phones. All the evidence coming from studies supported by industry suggest that mobile phones are completely harmless. Many scientists in the area support this view, suggesting that there is no potential scientific link between the use of mobile phones and brain cancer.

There are, however, a variety of people in the scientific world who disagree. A prominent Australian neurosurgeon is very firm in his belief that there is a direct link between the amount of time spent on mobile phones and brain cancer. A study not sponsored by industry but rather the World Health Organisation released over 10 years ago suggested that the use of a mobile phone for more than 30 minutes a day over 10 years was associated with a 30% increased risk for all forms of brain tumour. These results, however, have not been replicated in any other studies.

A recent report released in the British Medical Journal-Open (published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency with the study being coordinated through the University of Auckland, Monash University and the University of Wollongong) reviewed brain cancer diagnoses between the years of 1982-2013 in people in the age group of 20-60 and found definitely no increase in tumours over this time, despite the widespread use of mobile phones having increased markedly over the past few decades.

The other comforting piece of information for all of us people over the age of 60 is the results were exactly the same. I often say there are only three advantages of being over the age of 50:

1. Wisdom

2. Grandchildren

3. You lose the cancer sensitivity to medical radiation

It is therefore logical to me that the potential risk of mobile phone exposure lessens with age. When you reach age 50 and the hormones go south, which they do in all people in this age group, your cells do not divide as rapidly and thus the less rapidly dividing DNA becomes less susceptible to radiation.

Therefore, when I read a report suggesting that mobile phones do not cause brain cancer in people over the age of 60, I am not surprised. My major concern is when I see young children and teenagers with phones plastered to their head. It is the growing tissue that seriously concerns me as being at most risk.

This latest study is very reassuring for the vast majority of us who do use mobile phones regularly but we are all well aware that over 50 years ago the medical profession used to advise people to smoke for stress relief. It was only after much greater than 20 years of exposure that we realised the toxicity of cigarettes. It may be that this is a ridiculous analogy and that mobile phones are completely safe. But until I have seen robust data in young people who have been exposed to phones for well over 20 years showing no linked to brain cancer, it would still be my strong suggestion that phone use in people with growing brains i.e. all children and teenagers, be restricted. I also believe that even people over the age of 50 should minimise the time they spend on mobile phones and use the speaker function as much as possible.

Do I have any significant evidence for this? No! But as a society we have been bitten before and it has only been the last decade or so when we realised the significant problems with long-term exposure to the vast majority of synthetic chemicals in widespread use in our society and also the potential dangers of low-level radiation from many sources, not just mobile phones.

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