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None of the Studies Have Capacity to Relate Glioblastoma to Mobile Phones - Prof

CC0 / / Mobile phone
Mobile phone - Sputnik International
The prevalence of a brain tumor known as Glioblastoma Multiforme has doubled in England over the last two decades. According to Cancer Research UK, it is unlikely that mobile phones increase the risk of brain tumors. However, the organization also said that not enough is known to completely rule out a risk.

Radio Sputnik discussed this with Rodney Croft, professor of health psychology and director of the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Sputnik: In your view what degree of relevancy does exposure to electromagnetic radiation, the type that is emitted from cell phones and cordless phones, play in the development of Glioblastoma Multiforme?

Rodney Croft: There really isn't any evidence that it is related at all, although, they clearly found an increased rate of Glioblastoma in England the actual cause for it is a complete mystery, it could be anything from the changes in diagnostic habits, for instance, when we look at similar results here at Australia we find that consistent with an increase in Glioblastoma we also have a decrease in the unspecified tumors, and the idea is that as technologies increase we have less unspecified or unknown, and we're able to label them more efficiently, so at the moment it looks more like something like classification, but certainly other things, like ionizing radiation from nuclear fallout, these things can't be ruled out, but it's not the kind of study that can really provide an answer to what's actually caused this increase.

Sputnik: And I also understand that ionized radiation is often the kind of radiation used in treating cancers, so it's possible that when you have higher incidents of cancer, and people are having treatment with radiation, that this is possibly also a reason for an increase in secondary kind of cancer including Glioblastoma Multiforme?

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Rodney Croft: It's possible, but again there really isn't anything in that paper that's detailed enough to give us a clue as to whether that might be the case. I think that really the only conclusion that we can draw from it is that we do see an increase, but there are hundreds of potential explanations, like the one that you just gave, that could be causing it, and, of course, something like diagnostic changes in classifications could mean that although the numbers are larger it's not actually an increase in the type of tumor, it's just that we know about it, whereas we did not know about it until we had MRI and CT scans regularly used to diagnose people; we really can't say anything from that paper.

Sputnik: So when we talk about an increase in any case how much of the population is affected, I understand this is a fairly rare form of cancer?

Rodney Croft: I think it's roughly about 1 in 10,000 people a year, so it is very rare, it becomes more common as people get older, and certainly some countries that have reported increases in the incidence rate in this particular type of cancer have found it in older people who were less likely to have had a very heavy use of mobile phones, which again points against the idea that it is caused by mobile phones, but it's certainly not something like skin cancer, which does affect a huge amount of people or lung cancer, of course any increase in cancer is not a good thing, and if we can identify what's actually causing this, be it another environmental agent or just a change in the classifications, it clearly is important for society to find that out.

Sputnik: At the same time though that particular study that said that it had more than doubled in England between 1995 and 2015, there's other studies — the American Brain Tumor Association's largest and most comprehensive analysis for the United States found that similar tumors had increased in young adults, and there's perhaps a suggestion that this is something that's happening to people who are exposed to cell phones, Wi-Fi tablets and so forth from a younger age, I know there is no unequivocal proof of the link, but do you think we should still be concerned about this and take some precautions?

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Rodney Croft: No, at the moment there's really no evidence suggesting that we need to take precautions, there's been a lot of research conducted in animals especially trying to identify whether much, much larger exposures can cause similar cancers and, of course, the research says that it doesn't. I guess the difficulty is that these incident studies are one of our weakest designs in science, there's so many possible explanations that we could only use it as a way of cross checking what's going on, so for instance, if we have people claiming that there is a doubling of mobile phone related cancer incidents we can check against our national registry to see if that has actually occurred, and there has been a number studies, including here in Australia, where that's been done, and we just don't see anything like that, if anything, what we see is that when mobile phone usages increased dramatically, we don't see any increase, it's only before then, when the CT and MRI scan technology started being rolled out more commonly within the community that we get increases; so there will always be ups and downs in terms of cancer incidents across different countries, and I think that's what we are seeing, but I don't think that any of those studies have any capacity to relate to mobile phones, and when you drill down into the data you find that the relationships don't occur when mobile phone use occurs, it tends to occur before that; so it really points against being related to mobile phone use, but, of course, being an ecological design we can only look at association, we really can't rule out other confounding factors, we can't rule out any factor, it's still possible that mobile phones have an effect, but there's certainly no evidence that we need to be concerned about that.


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