Study Links Tumors to Cell Phone Use
Consumer Affairs, October 14, 2004

A study in the international journal Epidemiology finds that people who have used cell phones for at least 10 years may have an increased risk of developing a rare brain tumor.

A research team from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, found that using a cell phone for a decade or more quadrupled the risk of developing acoustic neuromas. The rare tumors generally occurred on the side of the head where the phone was most often held.

"We were surprised by the results," said Anders Ahlbom, professor of epidemiology at the institute and leader of the research team. "We think this is relatively strong data that is not down to chance."

The World Health Organization sponsored the research and medical and technology experts say it's likely to renew concerns about cell phone safety. They say it will be much harder for the industry to stonewall further medical research in this area.

In May 2000, an expert British panel concluded that the weight of available evidence indicated no adverse health effects from the use of cell phones but cautioned that children should only use them in emergencies.

For their part, industry spokesmen downplayed the study, saying it's only one piece of research and that no conclusions can be drawn from it.

The study involved 150 acoustic neuroma patients and 600 healthy people. At least five other studies are said to be underway into a possible acoustic neuromas-cell phone link.

Acoustic neuromas are slow-growing noncancerous tumors that develop on a nerve linking the brain and the inner ear. They can cause hearing loss and can be life-threatening if untreated. They're not very common, occurring in about one person per 100,000 in the general population.

The research team said it found no association between the tumors and heavy cell phone use, but rather on the length of time those in the study had been regular cell phone users.

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