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Cell Phones and Cancer: What Studies Say

"Cell phones may cause cancer," news organizations around the world shouted today, after the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic to humans." (Many people found out about the news while checking their cell phones. In other news, incidents of irony soared to record highs today.) More specifically, the IARC found "limited" evidence of a relationship between cell phone use and cases of glioma and acoustic neuroma, two types of brain cancer. Evidence for cell phones causing other types of cancer was "inadequate." However, IARC's release did not include many specifics about what studies they reviewed, promising to release the information in a few daysIf you can't wait, though, The Study has tracked down a number of studies and papers on cell phones and brain cancer.

United States, 2001: Scientists at the National Cancer Institute analyzing brain tumor cases in Boston, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh found no connection between cell phone use and brain cancer, including glioma and acoustic neuroma. However, the data was "not sufficient to evaluate the risks among long-term, heavy users and for potentially long induction periods."

Denmark, 2004: Epidemiologists at the Danish Cancer Society looked at 100 brain cancer patients, and determined that there was no correlation between cell phone use (including length of use) and acoustic neuroma.

Sweden, 2004: Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied patients diagnosed with acoustic neuroma from 1999 to 2002 in three Swedish cities. They found that while short-term cell phone use did not increase risk, using a cell phone for ten or more years did lead to increased risk of acoustic neuroma.

United Kingdom, 2005: Epidemiologists from several British universities looked at about 1000 patients diagnosed with glioma, and a 1700-person control group. They found no link between cell phone use and glioma, and although they did find some correlation between the side of the head patients used their phone, and the side of the brain where the tumor appeared, the authors put this down to patients misremembering which side was used.

Japan, 2006: A study of 101 acoustic neuroma cases in the Tokyo area from 2000 to 2004 found no increased risk between cell phone use and acoustic neuroma.

Sweden, 2006: Lennart Hardell and his colleagues at Orebro University performed three case studies on use of cell phones and cordless landline phones. Hardell found increased cancer risk for both cell and cordless phones, with acoustic neuroma showing the greatest increase in risk. The risk also increased with each additional year of use.

Australia, 2009: Four Australian scientists (and one Swede) reviewed 11 long-term studies, including the previously mentioned Hardell studies, and data from the 13-country Interphone study (see below). The authors calculated that using a cell phone for more than 10 years increases the risk of both acoustic neuroma and glioma. They even predicted that "it is likely that neurosurgeons will see increasing numbers of primary brain tumors, both benign and malignant."

Interphone, 2010: Last year, IARC's Interphone group finally published its own findings. The group found that glioma risk increased by 40 percent at "highest exposure levels" of cell phone use, but possible "biases and errors" led the group to declare the finding "inconclusive."