Frequent use of mobile and cordless phone link to malignant brain tumour confirmed in new comprehensive analysis based on the largest number of cases in Sweden; 3G phones more damaging than 2G, and children more at risk; “current guidelines for exposure should be urgently revised”.
The latest analysis includes pooled data from two case-control studies of malignant brain tumours in Sweden diagnosed during 1997-2003 and 2007-2009 compared with controls matched on age and gender. Mobile phone use increased the risk of glioma (the most common form of malignant brain tumour) up to 3 fold with a latency period of >25 years from first exposure. Cordless phone use increased the risk of glioma up to 1.4 fold in the >15-25 year latency group. The highest risks were found for tumours on the same side of the brain that the phone is used and on the temporal lobe next to the phone . In addition, 3G phones appear more damaging in increasing the risk more than 4-fold with latency period >5-10 years. And people who began using mobile phones before the age of 20 are at higher risk than older age groups.
These findings do not come as a surprise. They confirm a string of previous studies (see  Wireless Phones and Brain Cancer and other articles in the series, SiS 51). The principal investigator Lennart Hardell, a professor of oncology at University of Örebro in Sweden first warned of the link between mobile phones and brain tumours in a paper published in 1999 .
The new analysis
The new analysis, carried out by Hardell and statistician Michael Carlberg in the same University department, includes data from two case-control studies on patients diagnosed with malignant brain tumours in Sweden during 1997-2003 and 2007-2009 aged 20-80 years and 18-75 year respectively at the time of diagnosis . Controls were matched on age and gender. Exposures to emissions from phones were assessed by questionnaire. Special questions covered the extent of use in a car with an external antenna and hands-free device, both regarded as non-exposure. Also noted was the ear used most during phone calls, or equally both ears. The participation rates were high with a total of 1498 (89%) cases and 3530 (87%) controls.
The case control studies covered periods during which phone technologies had changed considerably. It started with first generation analogue phones that had an output power of 1 W at about 900 MHz. The 2nd generation GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) phones (2G) with either 900 or 1800 MHz frequency had pulsed output power averaging tens of mW. The 3rd generation (3G) phones UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System) are more amplitude modulated than pulsed, and typically use a broad frequency band (5 MHz width) from 700-3 590 MHz on a worldwide basis, and from 900-2 170 MHz in Europe  with output power of the order of tens of μW.
The main findings
The entire set of data was used in the regression analysis adjusted for gender, age, year of diagnosis and socioeconomic index. The risk was assessed as odds ratio (OR), which represents the odds that an outcome will occur with a particular exposure compared to the odds of the outcome occurring in the absence of that exposure.
The most common form of brain tumour in the patients (92 %) was glioma, a malignant tumour of the glial cells. Mobile phone use increased the risk of glioma with OR 1.3 and 95% CI (confidence interval) 1.1-1.6 overall, increasing to OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.7-5.2 in the >25 year latency group. Use of cordless phones increased the risk to OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.1-1.7, with highest risk in the >15-20 year latency group: OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.1-2.5.
The median latency time for diagnosis of glioma in use of mobile phones was 9.0 years (mean 10.1, range 2-28). The corresponding results for cordless phones were median 7.0 years (mean 8.0, range 2-21). Analogue phones gave OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2-2.0, increasing to OR 4.8, 95% CI 2.5-9.1 in the latency group of >25 years.
Proximity to phone radiation
For all phone types, ipsilateral use (glioma on same side of phone use) had the highest risk, with OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.4-2.2, whereas contralateral use gave OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.8-1.4. For cordless phones similarly, ipsilateral use gave OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.3-2.1 compared with contralateral use OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.9-1.6. For mobile phones, the highest risk was associated with ipsilateral use in the >25 year latency group, OR 4.6, 95% CI2.1-10. Contralateral mobile phone use also gave a statistically significant increased risk in the longest latency group, although with a lower OR than for ipsilateral use. Higher ORs were found for ipsilateral cordless phone use in the different latency groups, except for latency >20-25 years that were based on small numbers with wide 95% Cis
Still higher risks were found for glioma in the temporal or overlapping lobes (n=505). Mobile phone use yielded OR 3.6, 95% CI 1.8-7.4 versus OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.7-5.2 in total in the >25 years latency group. The corresponding results for cordless phone in the >20-25 years latency group were OR 2.1, 95% CI 0.6-7.0 versus OR 1.4, 95% CI 0.5-3.8, respectively. For glioma in the temporal lobe only (n=367), mobile phones gave OR 4.3, 95% CI 2.0-9.3 and cordless phones OR2.4, 95% CI 0.6-9.5.
Wireless phone use in total in the > 25 year latency group gave OR3.7, 95% CI 1.8-7.4 for glioma in temporal or overlapping lobes, increasing to OR 4.2, 95% CI 1.9-9.1 for glioma localised only in temporal lobe.
Youngest age group most at risk
The young are more vulnerable. The highest OR was obtained for first use before the age of 20 years, OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2-2.8, increasing for ipsilateral use to OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.3-4.2. Cordless phone gave OR2.3, 95% CI 1.4-3.9 in total for the age group < 20 years, increasing to OR 3.1, 95% CI 1.6-6.3 for ipsilateral use.
Risks go up with use
The group of total wireless phone use (mobile phone and/or cordless phone) gave similar risks to mobile phone use, increasing with latency to highest in the longest latency group of >25 years with OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.7-5.2.The risk increased per additional year of latency for wireless phones was OR 1.032, 95% CI 1.019-1.046.
Risk also goes up per 100 h cumulative use for all phone types; wireless phones as a group gave OR 1.011, 95 % CI 1.008-1.014.
3G more damaging than 2G
Digital 2G phones gave overall OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1-1.6 increasing to OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.5-3.0 with a latency >15-20 years, the longest latency interval. For digital 3G phones, the highest risk was in the >5-10 years latency group – the longest latency group as the technology is new – with OR 4.1, 95% CI 1.3-12, based on small numbers.
There is reason to suspect that 3G phones could be more risky than 2G, even though the OR was based on short latency and rather small number of subjects exposed. Contrary to 2G GSM, 3G UMTS emit wide-band microwaves, which may result in greater biological effect.
There have been only two studies carried out by one group of researchers comparing effects of 2G and 3G signals using the same experimental approach. The first study was carried out on human lymphocytes from 5 electrosensitive and 5 normal subjects . For 2G phones, effects on human lymphocytes were specific to carrier frequency, with 915 MHz consistently inhibiting DNA double strand break (DSB) repair in all subjects as (measured by the marker protein 53BP1 locating to the breaks on chromosomes), whereas 905 MHz exposure had no effect. For UMTS 3G exposure at 1947.4 MHz, inhibition of DSB repair was evident in cells from all subjects. There was no difference between electrosensitive and normal subjects. The effects of 1 h exposure lasted for 72 hours.
In the second study, human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is0lated from adipose tissue as well as normal human fibroblasts were used. Again, GSM 915 MHz and UMTS 1947.4 MHz exposure reduced DNA DS break repair in both cells lines, whereas GSM 905 Mhz exposure had no effect on fibroblasts, but had some effect on MSCs . The level of reduction in MSCs was more pronounced than in fibroblasts. The team tested whether MSCs and fibroblasts can adapt to microwave effects during chronic exposure by exposing the cells for 2 weeks (5 days/week, 1h/day). The MSCs failed to adapt as DSB repair dropped almost to zero, while the fibroblasts adapted and recovered its normal rate. Thus, the strongest microwave effects were always observed in stem cells, which reacted to a broader range of frequencies. And stem cells are increasingly thought to be targets for origination of cancers including glioma.
The new study is the most comprehensive and reliable analysis done on the largest number of subjects from a country that has the longest history of mobile phone use, and confirm results of previous studies carried out by the same research group since the late 1990s.
The International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO (World Health Organization) evaluated human cancer risks from RF-EMF (radio frequency electromagnetic field) exposure in May 2011 . It included all sources in the frequency range of 30 kHz to 300 GHz. A total of 29 invited scientists participated; the final classification of RF-EMF was Group 2B, ‘possibly’ a human carcinogen.
The evaluation on the long-term use of wireless phones, i.e. >10 years, were based on the results of Hardell’s group as well as the Interphone Study . The tumours associated with the use of wireless phones are the malignant types, mostly glioma, and acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour of the 8th cranial nerve. In contrast, no consistent association was found for the most common benign brain tumour, meningioma. The Interphone results reported only on the use of mobile phones, and did not include cordless phones, that and other methodological limitations serve to under-represent the risks involved .
The IARC evaluation was based on a fairly short latency period, at most >10 years. The present study has greatly extended the latency period and hence revealed the true extent of cancer risks from wireless phone. The authors concluded that the emissions from mobile phones should be  “regarded as carcinogenic, under Group 1 according to the IARC classification, indicating that current guidelines for exposure should be urgently revised.” The current guidelines are based on thermal effects – those associated with increase in temperature in the exposed cells or tissues – based on an equilibrium thermodynamics paradigm that applies to dead matter. Instead organisms are non-equilibrium quantum coherent systems that depend on exquisite sensitivity to ultraweak electromagnetic fields for intercommunication and survival (see  Quantum Coherent Water, Non-thermal EMF Effects, and Homeopathy, SiS 51). There is now abundant evidence for such non-thermal effects of electromagnetic fields, highlighted by the European Environment Agency in 2011 (see  European Environment Agency Highlight Mobile Phone Cancer Risks, SiS 51).
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