Ah, the humble mobile phone. Has humanity ever invented a more distrusted technology?
These little knobbly, bleepy bricks of controversy have, over the past few years, been accused of causing hearing loss, thumb strains, car crashes, spurious 999 calls, disruption of birds’ migration patterns, memory loss, and male infertility; encouraging children to look at pornography; increasing the risk of being struck by lightning… not to mention triggering the occasional lethal outburst. An impressive list for what is, basically, a small portable radio transmitter [added the word ‘transmitter’ for clarity, since a reader pointed out that mobiles broadcast and receive, whereas radios receive only – HS 7/5/08].
But no health scare is complete without suspicions of a link to cancer. And of all the recurring media kerfuffle over mobiles, this notion has proved the most durable. A new piece of evidence emerges almost monthly on this subject, and several studies initially did seem to show a link. But there are significant flaws with a lot of this research.
Meanwhile, the evidence that they’re safe continues to pile up.
It’s from a team of Japanese researchers, who measured the strength of radiation from several different makes of mobile, and looked at the usage of these phones amongst more than 300 people with brain tumours, and nearly 700 healthy people.
This makes it the first of its kind to examine the distribution of radiation from phones around the brain.
If there was a link, you’d expect to find brain tumours clustering where the radiation was most concentrated… but no such clustering was found.
So here’s another bit of evidence that there’s no link between mobile use and the incidence of brain cancers.
But proving a negative is tricky, and relies on weight of evidence rather than a single piece of research. And the usual caveats apply about the long-term effects of phones – we can’t study them yet because mobiles haven’t been around that long.
But, if you’re reading this on a mobile phone, our advice is to stop worrying about cancer and look out for that oncoming car!!!