No increase in brain cancer during increase in mobile phone use in
22 Feb 2011
A study of cancer incidence in the UK shows there was no
increase in brain cancer during the period of rapid adoption of mobile
phones in the country.
Researchers from the University of Manchester used publicly
available data from the UK Office of National Statistics to look at
trends in rates of newly diagnosed brain cancers in England between
1998 and 2007.
The study, published in the journal Bioelectromagnetics
, reported no statistically significant change in the incidence
of brain cancers in men or women during the nine-year time period
The researchers conclude that radio frequency exposure from mobile
phone use does not appear to increase the risk of developing brain
cancers by any significant amount.
“Mobile phone use in the United Kingdom and other countries has
risen steeply since the early 1990s when the first digital mobile
phones were introduced,” said lead researcher Dr Frank de Vocht, an
expert in occupational and environmental health in the University of
Manchester’s School of Community-Based Medicine.
“There is an ongoing controversy about whether radio frequency
exposure from mobile phones increases the risk of brain cancer. Our
findings indicate that a causal link between mobile phone use and
cancer is unlikely because there is no evidence of any significant
increase in the disease since their introduction and rapid
The authors say that because there is no plausible biological
mechanism for radio waves to damage our genes directly thereby
causing cells to become cancerous, radio frequency exposure, they
argue, if related to cancer is more likely to promote growth in an
existing brain tumour.
As such, the researchers say they would expect an increase in the
number of diagnosed cases within five to 10 years of the
introduction of mobile phones and for this increase to continue as
mobile-phone use became more widespread. The 1998 to 2007 study
period would therefore relate to the period 1990 to 2002 when mobile
phone use in the UK increased from zero to 65% of households.
The team, which included researchers from the Institute of
Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh and Drexel University,
Philadelphia, found a small increase in the incidence of cancers in
the temporal lobe of 0.6 cases per 100,000 people or 31 extra cases
per year in a population of 52 million. Brain cancers of the
parietal lobe, cerebrum and cerebellum in men actually fell slightly
between 1998 and 2007.
“Our research suggests that the increased and widespread use of
mobile phones, which in some studies was associated to increased
brain cancer risk, has not led to a noticeable increase in the
incidence of brain cancer in England between 1998 and 2007,” said Dr
“It is very unlikely that we are at the forefront of a brain
cancer epidemic related to mobile phones, as some have suggested,
although we did observe a small increased rate of brain cancers in
the temporal lobe corresponding to the time period when mobile phone
use rose from zero to 65% of households. However, to put this into
perspective, if this specific rise in tumour incidence was caused by
mobile phone use, it would contribute to less than one additional
case per 100,000 population in a decade.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that there are people who are
susceptible to radio-frequency exposure or that some rare brain
cancers are associated with it but we interpret our data as not
indicating a pressing need to implement public health measures to
reduce radio-frequency exposure from mobile phones.”
1. Frank de Vocht, Igor Burstyn and John W Cherrie. Time trends
(1998–2007) in brain cancer incidence rates in relation to mobile
phone use in England. Bioelectromagnetics. Online 28 JAN 2011, DOI: