The class of wireless users who have a mobile phone stuck to their ear an average of 15 hours each month face twice the risk of developing brain cancer than regular users, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bordeaux.
The researchers’ study, published in London-based journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found a particular danger for business and sales professionals living in urban areas because their work forces them to spend hours on the phone as they juggle multiple duties.
While most French mobile users are on their phones for an average of two and half hours each month the study found those who had clocked up around 900 hours of mobile use faced a higher risk of developing a certain kind brain tumour.
These results mark the latest salvo in what has been a long running debate over potential health risks of carried by mobiles. On that theme, the French scientists behind the study did not determine a definite link between mobile phone use and brain cancer. The head of the study tried to dispel any fears among regular mobile users.
“There is no reason to panic,” said Roger Salamon, director of the university institute ISPED, which carried out the study. “This does not mean that everyone who makes a call with a mobile phone is going to get a brain tumor.”
Rather, Salamon’s team drew its conclusions from a study of 253 cases of glioma and 194 cases of meningioma reported in four French departments (counties) between 2004 and 2006. It was among these people the researchers observed a higher risk of cancer for people who were heavy users of their mobile phones over a number of years.
The scientists could not determine a critical threshold beyond which the risk increases but they did conclude using the hands-free kit was advisable as was limiting excess use.
For the past 15 years the question of whether mobile phones present a cancer risk lacks a definitive answer in the world of science, though some studies have suggested a link between gliomas and intensive, long-term use.
While the American National Cancer Institute says no study has consistently linked mobile phones with brain cancer, not all scientists believe the devices are risk-free.
A French national health body, l'Institut National de Prévention et d'Education pour la Santé, has warned of possible dangers. The institute says “questions about possible long term effect cannot be dismissed, particularly among intensive users.”
Also, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research has classed electromagnetic waves, including the type emitted by mobile phones, as “possible carcinogens.”
For the organisation Priartem, this study confirms the dangers of wireless devices.
“How much proof is needed before we launch real protective measures for the population, notably for children who start using mobiles from the age of 13?” President Janine Le Calvez told French daily Le Parisien.
Research faces several challenges. They include clear proof in the lab that these fields are harmful to human cells. Another is getting an accurate picture of phone use in real life, filtering out lifestyle factors such as smoking which amplify cancer risk and taking into account changing phone technology.