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Daily Telegraph, 24 Oct 2009

RESULTADOS INTERPHONE: Long-term use of mobile phones may be linked to some cancers, a landmark international study will conclude later this year. Department of Health under pressure to increase precautions over children’s mobile phone use

Sábado 24 de octubre de 2009 · 2579 lecturas

Long-term use of mobile phones ’may be linked to cancer’
Long-term use of mobile phones may be linked to some cancers, a landmark international study will conclude later this year.

By Martin Beckford and Robert Winnett
Published: 8:00AM BST 24 Oct 2009

Heavy users may face a higher risk of developing brain tumours later in life Photo: GETTY

A 20million, decade-long investigation overseen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) will publish evidence that heavy users face a higher risk of developing brain tumours later in life, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The conclusion, while not definitive, will undermine assurances from the government that the devices are safe and is expected to put ministers under pressure to issue stronger guidance.

Bright night lights ’leads to depression’ A preliminary breakdown of the results found a “significantly increased risk” of some brain tumours “related to use of mobile phones for a period of 10 years or more” in some studies.

The head of the Interphone investigation said that the report would include a “public health message”.

Britain’s Department of Health has not updated its guidance for more than four years. It says that “the current balance of evidence does not show health problems caused by using mobile phones”, and suggests only that children be “discouraged” from making “non-essential” calls while adults should “keep calls short”.

In contrast, several other countries, notably France, have begun strengthening warnings and American politicians are urgently investigating the risks.

The Interphone inquiry has been investigating whether exposure to mobile phones is linked to three types of brain tumour and a tumour of the salivary gland.

Its head, Dr Elisabeth Cardis, backed new warnings.

“In the absence of definitive results and in the light of a number of studies which, though limited, suggest a possible effect of radiofrequency radiation, precautions are important,” she said.

“I am therefore globally in agreement with the idea of restricting the use by children, though I would not go as far as banning mobile phones as they can be a very important tool, not only in emergencies, but also maintaining contact between children and their parents and thus playing a reassurance role.

“Means to reduce our exposure (use of hands-free kits and moderating our use of phones) are also interesting.”

The project conducted studies in 13 countries, interviewing tumour sufferers and people in good health to see whether their mobile phone use differed. It questioned about 12,800 people between 2000 and 2004.

Previous research into the health effects of mobile phones, in the short time they have been in use, has proved inconclusive. However, a breakdown of the latest findings, seen by The Daily Telegraph, shows that six of eight Interphone studies found some rise in the risk of glioma (the most common brain tumour), with one finding a 39 per cent increase.

Two of seven studies into acoustic neurinoma (a benign tumour of a nerve between the ear and brain) reported a higher risk after using mobiles for 10 years. A Swedish report said it was 3.9 times higher.

A summary said a definitive link could not be proved because of difficulties with subjects’ memories.

An Israeli study found heavy users were about 50 per cent more likely to suffer tumours of the parotid salivary gland.

The Interphone inquiry has faced criticism for including people who made just one call a week, and leaving out children, which some experts said could underplay the risks. Some results for short-term use appeared to show protection against cancer, suggesting flaws in the study.

The final paper, funded partly by the industry, has been delayed as its authors argued over how to present the conclusions. But it has been sent to a scientific journal and will be published before the end of the year.

A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said there was “no hard evidence at present” of harm to health. Use by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged, he added.

A spokesman for the Mobile Operators Association said more than 30 scientific reviews had found no adverse health effects.

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Department of Health under pressure to increase precautions over children’s mobile phone use
Pressure is increasing on the Government to increase public health warnings over mobile phones as more fears emerge over their possible risks.

By Martin Beckford
Published: 7:00AM BST 24 Oct 2009

The Department of Health has not updated its advice to consumers for more than four years, while other countries have begun to implement stricter guidance as mobile use has become widespread even among children.

The long-awaited publication of the Interphone final results paper, which will include a public health message, is likely to force a revision of advice even if there is no conclusive proof that mobile phones cause brain cancer.

Many experts argue that greater precautionary measures are needed now that there are an estimated 4billion people using mobile phones worldwide.

They believe action must be taken even though proof of a link between the radiofrequency radiation emitted by handsets and health problems has not been proven, because cancerous tumours can take decades to develop, and because it may be difficult to prove an increased risk solely by asking people about their former mobile phone usage.

Professor Lawrence Challis was Vice-Chairman of the Stewart Committee, the British Government’s pioneering investigation into mobile phones in 2000 that led to the current advice that children should be “discouraged” from making long calls or using mobile phones except when essential.

He believes the Interphone results could be down to “recall bias” as people who have developed brain tumours are likely to believe they must have been caused by something, such as their previous use of mobile phones.

But while further research continues, Prof Challis believes it is sensible for greater precautions to be taken - particularly regarding children. This is because young people are already known to be more susceptible to the effects of ultraviolet radiation and air pollution.

Prof Challis told The Daily Telegraph: “The Stewart report recommended that they should not use them to any extent. As time has gone by, that has largely been ignored and my own feeling is that is now virtually impossible to say teenagers should not have mobile phones.

“I think the advice to secondary school children is to use them sparingly to text rather than phone, given the uncertainty. I don’t see any reason why children at primary school should have mobile phones.”

He also called for improvements to hands-free kits in order to reduce the radiation they emit, and for the Government to force manufacturers to make shoppers more aware of the RF radiation emitted by different handsets, known as their SAR ratings. Most can only be found by reading the instruction manual once the handset has been bought.

Dr Siegal Sadetzki, a member of the 13-country Interphone team who conducted the Israeli study, added: “Most studies including ours show we do see something happening in what we call long-term users.

“As a specialist in public health, I say why shouldn’t we take simple measures just to be on the safe side to limit exposure, especially when we are having so many children who are using them?”

It is understood that Interphone has given assurances to health groups that despite industry funding for the project, it will not “bury” negative results.

However some members of the Interphone team believe the increased risks found in some areas are too small to draw any conclusions from, and may be simply down to design flaws.

They want the final results paper to be limited to the data and leave the public health considerations to politicians, and their disputes over the conclusions have delayed its publication for three years.

One said it was “scary” to consider how much importance will be placed on their findings by governments and industry, while another feared that making a bold statement now about possible risks could “prejudice” what they might say in the future should a link be ruled out.

Dr Christopher Wild, the Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is running Interphone, said in a statement: "The Agency conducts research with relevance to cancer prevention and control and hence we would wish to include public health messages from the Interphone study in as far as the evidence itself permits valid conclusions to be drawn.

"For the sake of objectivity we would also point out the limitations of our research findings. Countries will then make their own public health decisions based on the scientific evidence we and others provide, plus other considerations at national and regional level."

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