Longterm use of mobile phones – Link to Brain Cancer?


The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently overseeing an investigation into the link between long term use of mobile phones and tumours developing in the brain.

The study is being carried out over the course of a decade to establish if there is a link between the two. The estimated, £20 million investigation will hopefully reveal whether the assurances provided by the government and mobile phone companies are accurate and if not, enable pressure to be applied demanding stricter guidelines on usage, by revealing the harm that long term use (eg over 10 years) can cause.

The radiation that comes from radiofrequency’s have already been shown to change the way in which brain cells work and to affect the memory of those using them. Once the results have been finalised WHO will be able to issue a public health message detailing their findings.

Brain Tumours

Primary brain tumours can be either malignant or benign. Malignant brain tumours can grow rapidly into the surrounding tissue affecting the central nervous system, although they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Benign tumours, although they don’t affect the surrounding tissue, can increase the pressure on the brain and press on certain structures affecting function. Both can therefore be harmful to the patient. Glioma, is the most common type of Primary brain tumour which grows from the glial cells which support the nerve cells of the brain.

The most common symptoms include headaches and seizures with the headaches being worse in the mornings. The headaches come as an increased result of pressure on the brain. Other symptoms can include the following:

  • being / feeling sick
  • blurred vision
  • drowsiness
  • changes in personality / speaking / hearing
  • generally feeling weaker on one side of the body

These symptoms can also be the result of other problems and not necessarily a tumour but if you have any concerns you should visit your GP. If necessary they can carry out the appropriate tests and refer you to a neurologist, if required.

Preliminary Results

Preliminary information has been taken from the investigation to date. The results have been obtained from those diagnosed with brain tumours. It shows that there is a ‘significantly increased risk’ in long-term use of mobile phones. Other countries have been taking action with some giving sterner guidance on the harm that can be caused. The Department of Health in the United Kingdom has not changed their stance for some time based on the evidence before them. The above study will hopefully uncover the evidence they require to issue warnings to the general public to review the way they use mobile phones, especially in relation to children.

Further Investigations

Those involved in the Interphone enquiry which is currently looking into the links to three types of brain tumours are suggesting precautions are put in place whilst awaiting the results of ongoing investigations. Dr Elisabeth Cardis, the head of the enquiry suggested that precautionary measures were required. "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."

Where there is a possible risk of exposure to radiation from the use of mobile phones, it is advised that children should be restricted on those non essential calls, with adults reducing the amount of time they spend on their mobile phones. Although previous research has proved inconclusive, 6 out of 8 Interphone studies have shown an increased risk in those using mobile phones for over ten years with developing the most common type of brain tumour, Glioma.

As with many other cancers, brain tumours can take years to develop before being detected, and although many can be treated, this highlights the likelihood over the next few decades of many more cases coming to light. Children regularly using mobile phones are particularly at risk as their brains are still developing. The former chief scientist of government, Sir William Stewart confirmed the use of phones by children should be ‘minimised’, although it appears that nothing has been done to discourage their use with there being an increase in the use of mobile phones in the last few years.

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