Sputnik discussed the possible effects phones have on our brains with Professor Denis Henshaw, scientific director of Children with Cancer UK.
Sputnik: So what's your take on the real role that the use of mobile phones and cordless phones could play in creating circumstances in which Glioblastoma Multiforme occurs?
Denis Henshaw: We do you know from other studies that there is an association between prolonged mobile phone use, by that I mean ten years or more, and increased risk of these very aggressive brain tumors, invariably fatal brain tumors called glioblastoma, we know there is an association with the two, what we don't know is the size of the effect, so that's really the answer to your question; we don't know the size of the effect but we know that some effect is there.
Sputnik: Glioblastoma is most common in patients between the ages of 60 and 80, is that correct?
Denis Henshaw: Yes, absolutely, the risk of these tumors increases significantly the older you get and certainly the most striking of our data occurs in the elderly, over 60 years of age, but actually the increase is seen at all ages, there are not so many cases at the younger ages, but the rate of increase is seen at all ages.
Sputnik: If you've been using your phone for the past 30 years or something can we all expect to get it by the time we get older using the phone; but many people actually argue that the cordless phones, that were predecessors to mobile phones are, in fact, more dangerous as they admit more magnetic radioactive energy?
Denis Henshaw: This is an interesting question because there has been extensive research on this question by a Swedish scientist and clinician, that's Professor Lennart Hardell in Sweden. I have his studies in front of me actually, and he has published some very detailed work on the cordless phones, quite separately to the mobile phones> So the answer to your question is, yes, there is certainly evidence that the cordless phones do have the same risk and, yes, they could have a higher risk than mobile phones, that is correct.
Sputnik: Some studies have pointed out that children who are exposed from an early age that seem to have higher incidents of glioblastoma multiforme from telephone use.
Denis Henshaw: I would be quite cautious about that, let me tell you why I'm cautious about it. Brain tumors are, thankfully, very rare in children but the fact that they're very rare means that the actual number of cases is very small, and, therefore, when we try to do a statistical analysis making an association between mobile phone use and these brain tumors, if you got a very small number of cases to deal with the statistics are not very robust, so I would say we have to be a little bit careful with children. We don't really know the answers; we certainly need much more research before we can make any definitive comments about children.
Sputnik: In your opinion what percent of the population is actually affected if we talk about children and if we talk about adults in what used to be considered the prime age for this illness to develop, from 60 to 80, how has that increased? Was it not like 2 people out of 100,000 in the United States, I think?
Denis Henshaw: Well these UK figures are so very interesting because for these aggressive tumors, the glioblastomas rate of 100,000 has more than doubled, in 1995 it was 2,4 per 100,000 and in 2015, 20 years later, it was 5 per 100,000; so the rate per unit of the population has more than doubled. But the actual number of cases in the UK has more than doubled, that's because of increasing population, I can just give you some numbers, there were 983 cases 1995 but in 2015 there were 2531 cases, some of that is driven by increased population, but these are invariably fatal cases and they need treatment, of course, and so they're certainly an issue for clinicians and health services having to treat a more than a doubling number of brain tumors.
Sputnik: These studies are very difficult not because of the low incidents of this illness, but also because you have to really isolate cell phone use, and some would actually argue improved diagnostics have just been uncovering this disease, perhaps, some of the cases might've gone undiagnosed previously; what would you say about that?
Denis Henshaw: Well my response to that is this may apply to benign tumors; these are tumors that grow very, very slowly, and are non-fatal and when you get older, when you eventually die, you may die with this benign tumor but it wasn't the cause of your death. Only if you did an autopsy on everybody you may find these tumors there, but they weren't causing your death. Certainly there are changes in diagnoses going on, that's true, but these glioblastomas, because they are so invariably fatal, the prognosis is, I'm afraid is only six months to eighteen months maximum, so only six months, so you're not going to miss them, in modern medicine, and I'm talking about the last 30 years, you can't miss a brain tumor. Doctors just don't miss them. The symptoms are so distinct, and I'm afraid the improved diagnosis does not explain the increase in these aggressive tumors.
The views and opinions expressed by Denis Henshaw are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.