de Vocht, F.; Burstyn, I., and Cherrie, J. W. Time trends (1998-2007) in brain cancer incidence rates in relation to mobile phone use in England. Bioelectromagnetics. 2011 Jan 28.
Whether or not exposure to radiofrequency radiation from mobile phones is associated with an increased risk of brain tumors is a matter of an ongoing controversy. The conclusions from the international INTERPHONE study of mobile phone use and brain cancers, and from country-specific INTERPHONE studies, are generally negative. These conclusions contrast with the generally positive results from Swedish studies conducted by Hardell and colleagues. It has been argued that the increased risks reported by Hardell and colleagues are unrealistically high. If there is a true increase in brain cancer risk associated with RF exposure from mobile phones, an increase in the incidence of brain cancer should be seen in cancer registries.
The objective was to “examine this hypothesis using data from cancer registries in England.”
Trends in age-specific brain cancer incidence rates in England for the period from 1998 to 2007 were examined using publicly available data from the UK office of National Statistics.
Results and Interpretation
No significant changes in brain cancer incidence rates were observed between 1998 and 2007 for any age group either for men or for women. These data are in agreement with findings from similar studies conducted in other countries. Examination by anatomical site revealed a small but significant increase with time in the incidence of temporal lobe tumors in men and women, and in the incidence of frontal lobe tumors in men. There was a significant decrease in the incidence of tumors of the cerebrum, parietal lobe and cerebellum in men. The increase in the incidence rates of tumors in the temporal lobe corresponds to the brain area of highest RF exposure from typical mobile phone use. However, this increase (for men and women combined) was only 0.6 cases per 100,000 people, or 31 additional cases per year for the entire population of England (~52 million). If mobile phone exposure could cause brain cancer, many more cases would have occurred because of the ubiquitous nature of this exposure. The increase was not gradual but stepwise from 1998-2001 to 2002-2007, which could reflect improvements in cancer registration in England in 2001-2004 commissioned by the UK Department of Health. Though no similar stepwise changes were observed for cancers in other brain regions, the observed gradual decrease in the rates of cancers in overlapping brain areas indicate that improvements in cancer registration might impact the results.
The authors have concluded: “Our analysis suggests that the increased and widespread use of mobile phones, which in some studies was associated with increased brain cancer risk, has not led to a noticeable increase in the incidence of brain cancer in England between 1998 and 2007… We interpret the present data as not indicating a pressing need to implement a precautionary principle to reduce exposure to RF from mobile phones by means of population-wide interventions”.