Children and adolescents who use mobile phones are at no greater risk of developing brain cancer than non-users, according to new research.
The research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Wednesday, looked at whether children may be more vulnerable to health risks from electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.
Children’s nervous systems are still developing and there are fears that the smaller circumference of their heads could allow radiation to penetrate deeper into the brain.
However, the study of seven to 19-year-olds found that brain tumor patients were no more likely to be regular mobile-phone users than control subjects who did not have cancer.
“If mobile phone use would be a risk factor, you’d expect cancer patients to have a higher amount of usage,” said Martin Roosli, who conducted the study at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland.
Funders of the study included several groups such as the Swiss Research Foundation on Mobile Communication, which is partly supported by Swiss mobile operators.
The funders were not involved in the study design or the collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, according the authors.
About 5 billion cellphones are in use today, about 30 years after they were introduced commercially.
Roosli’s research, conducted between 2004 and 2008 in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, looked at the phone use of 352 brain cancer patients and 646 control subjects.
About 55 percent of the cancer patients reported regular mobile phone use compared with 51 percent of the control subjects, according to the study.
“What we found was that there was no [significant] difference in the amount of use,” Roosli said, adding that if there was a risk “it would be a really small risk.”
However, since the study involved face-to-face interviews, Roosli acknowledged that he could not be certain of the accuracy of the subjects’ recollection of past cellphone use.
Roosli said that future studies should examine longer-term phone use among children.
“[This study] provides quite some evidence that use of less than five years does not increase the chance of a brain tumor, but naturally we don’t have a lot of long-term users,” he said.
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