The use of cell phones and wireless landlines in young people is not associated with an increased risk of brain tumors, according to the largest case study carried out to date in 14 countries, a study that has been coordinated by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
The study, published in the journal ‘Environment International’, has analyzed the link between exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) of wireless devices (mobile and fixed) and brain tumors in young people and has not found a causal association between brain tumors and the use of these phones due to exposure to radiofrequency (RF) and extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields .
In recent decades, the possibility that using mobile devices may increase the risk of brain tumors has been a matter of increasing public health concern, particularly due to the increased use by young people.
The study coordinated by ISGlobal, a center promoted by the La Caixa Foundation, has analyzed data from nearly 900 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 with brain tumors –the majority of the neuroepithelial type, mainly glioma– that they compared with 1,900 controls from 14 different countries, who coincided with the cases in the date of diagnosis, study region, sex and age.
The participants filled out a questionnaire with detailed information on the history of wireless device use, and the mothers or fathers also filled out a questionnaire on exposures before conception, during pregnancy, and in the first year of life.
To assess the quality of the data, the researchers did several methodological substudies: one consisted of obtaining records from telephone operators to compare the number and duration of calls with those reported in the questionnaire and another installed an application on the telephone to record its actual use for four weeks.
They also computed using algorithms the RF and ELF exposure level from youth phones.
The results provide no evidence of a causal association between wireless phone use and brain tumors in young peopleOn the contrary, the data analyzed suggest that the risk of brain tumors could decrease with greater use of wireless phones, but “it is unlikely that these findings represent a preventive effect of exposure to these phones”, the Spanish researcher pointed out. Gemma Castaño, first author of the study.
“East it is the largest study of brain tumors in young people done to date, but the number of people in subgroups may be too small to evaluate possible associations, for example, in specific time windows and age groups, and in different anatomical locations of the tumors”, he admitted.
“Nowadays, no conclusive scientific evidence that the levels of radiation emitted by mobile phones may increase the risk of brain cancer, so our results are consistent with the knowledge published so far”, said Elisabeth Cardis, coordinator of the study and head of the ISGlobal Radiation Program.
However, animal and cell studies have reported a increased oxidative stress related to radiation emitted by phones, and possible effects on genotoxicity and gene expression.
Two studies with animals showed an increased risk of schwannomas – tumors that derive from Schwann cells, which are part of the nerve sheath and are responsible for the production of myelin – cardiac and tumors in nerve tissue cells, according to the ISGlobal, which suggests that “a possible mechanism by which radiofrequencies could affect cancer risk is in the promotion or progression of tumors, possibly accelerating an appearance that would otherwise have occurred later.”
“More studies are needed to understand the relationship between radiation from devices and tumors, and other research is being done on the biological repercussions of radio frequencies emitted by phones”, Cardis concluded.
In this study, financed in part by the European Commission, research centers from Germany, Australia, Austria, Canada, Korea, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.
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