No link between mobile phone use and brain cancers

A study led by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) published with the British Medical Journal Open found no link between the use of mobile phones in Australia and incidence of brain cancers.

Mobile phones have transformed the telecommunications industry over the last few decades. They allow us to reach out to our friends and family, and connect to the internet from almost anywhere. Mobile phones are used daily by the majority of the Australian public, with recent consumer surveys conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority showing that more than 90% of Australians are using mobile phones.

The ARPANSA study, conducted in conjunction with The University of Wollongong, Monash University and the University of Auckland, looked at the incidence of different types of brain tumours in adults including glioma, glioblastoma and meningioma diagnosed between 1982 and 2013. The brain cancer diagnoses of 16 825 cases was compared with the uptake of mobile phone subscriptions in Australia.

Main findings

The study found:

  • The overall brain tumour rates remained stable throughout this period and showed no increase when compared with the increase of mobile phone use in Australia
  • There was an increase of glioblastoma during 1993 and 2002 which was attributed to better diagnostic techniques with advances made in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology
  • Although mobile phone use has risen rapidly since 2003 there has been no increase in any brain tumour types since then.
  • Since 2003 there has also been no increase in brain tumours of the temporal lobe, which is the location most exposed when using a mobile phone.

A large number of studies have been performed to investigate whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. It is the assessment of ARPANSA and other national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), that there is no established evidence that the use of mobile phones causes any health effects. However, some previous studies that have compared the mobile phone use between brain cancer cases and healthy controls have shown a weak association between heavy mobile phone use and brain cancer. The current study further showed that if this association was true then the brain tumour rates would be higher than those that are observed.