by Ross Walker

A recently published study from the University of Sydney examined mobile phone use since their introduction into Australia in 1987 and the potential risk for brain cancer. This was a very long study with a 29-year follow up and clearly showed that the use of mobile phones has increased 94% during the time since first availability.

They looked at mobile phone use and compared this with national cancer data and found that over this time, just under 20,000 males and around 14,200 women had developed brain cancer between 1982-2002. But, they also found that the only correlation between the increase in mobile phone use and brain cancer was in the 70-84 year old ladies group and suggested this purely because of better diagnoses. There have now been five studies from different countries - the US, the Nordic region, England, New Zealand and now Australia, showing that there is no link between mobile phone use and brain cancer.

But, Dr Devra Davis, a researcher from the US, wrote a book, ‘Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation - What the Industry has done to Hide it’. She suggests that it may take up to 40 years for the true relation to emerge.

When you think of it logically, during the first decade of mobile phone availability, these were very expensive and it was only the older, wealthier people who could afford them.

Those people who are now in the 70-84 year old age group where the brain cancer incidence has increased were in the 40-55 year age group when mobile phones first became available i.e. these were the greater mobile phone users.

In reality, it has only been in the last decade or so that mobile phone use has skyrocketed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) still considers mobile phones as Grade 2b carcinogens which suggests that there is a possible link. One non-industry funded study showed that using a mobile phone on the same side of your head for a half an hour a day for ten years or greater may increase the risk of malignant glioma by 30%.

I make the point that, 50 years ago, doctors used to advise people to smoke to relieve stress, and we do know that there is a forty-year lag in the development of lung cancer. This may be the case for mobile phones.

Personally, I am not convinced that this study proves that mobile phones are safe and strongly suggest people use the speaker away from their head as far as possible. If you have to speak privately so that no-one can hear the discussion, the cable that goes into the phone focuses the radiation even further into the head, but there is a device known as a Speaksafe which you can put around the cable, which blocks around 99.9% of the radiation.

The reality here is that mobile phones may be safe, but I am not prepared to take the risk and would prefer to continue to use these precautions until mobile phones have been around for 40 to 50 years.