The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is questioning the results of a Swedish study that claims to provide the first scientific evidence of an increased risk of brain cancer among people who use mobile phones.
Swedish researchers reported in March 2006 that the heavy use of mobile phones over a long period can increase the risk of malignant brain tumors by as much as 240 percent. [See, “Heavy Use of Mobile Phones Increases Cancer Risk, Study Finds”]
FDA Questions Study Findings and Methods
In a statement published on its Web site, the FDA said these findings “are difficult to interpret” and contradict a number of earlier studies that found no definitive link between cancer and mobile phone use. The FDA also questioned the methods used in the Swedish study, which relied on mailed questionnaires and follow-up telephone interviews rather than in-person evaluations.
The FDA said it “plans to convene a meeting in the near future to evaluate research conducted to date in this area and identify gaps in knowledge that warrant additional research.” No date was given for when that meeting might take place. The agency said it also “continues to monitor studies looking at possible heath effect resulting from exposure to radio frequency energy.”
Wireless Industry Welcomes FDA Skepticism About Study
An representative for the mobile phone industry, interviewed by Reuters, said most scientists already have concluded wireless mobile phones are safe.
"When you objectively look at the enormous body of science that exists, you have to conclude that there is no evidence of adverse health effects," said Joe Farren, spokesman for CTIA, a wireless industry trade association.
No Study Offers Conclusive Proof of Mobile Phone Danger or Safety
What both the FDA and the mobile phone industry failed to say, however, is that while no previous studies have shown a clear link between mobile phone use and increased risk of brain cancer, neither have they ruled it out.
Mobile phones have quickly become a common form of communication for people worldwide--perhaps too quickly to accurately assess the long-term health effects. In the United States alone, the number of mobile phone users reached 208 million in 2005, up from 340,213 in 1985, according to CTIA.
In the absence of irrefutable proof that prolonged exposure to radiation from mobile phones does not pose a health risk, it seems reasonable to take precautions. And that’s what the authors of the Swedish study advised in their published report and subsequent interviews with the news media.
Exercise Caution When Using Mobile Phones
According to Kjell Hansson Mild, who led the study, the research report is not intended to cause public alarm or to raise concerns about widespread risk for the majority of people who use mobile phones.
"It does however give reason to use caution when calling on wireless phones,” he said in an interview with Dow Jones.
Hansson Mild advised that the best ways for consumers to lower their risk of cancer related to mobile phones are to use their wireless phones less frequently and to use hands-free options when they do make or receive mobile calls.