Specialist Links Brain Tumors to Mobile Phones

Copyright 1998 Nando.net
Copyright 1998 Agence France-Presse

SYDNEY (January 3, 1998 11:18 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - A sharp rise in the incidence of brain tumors may be linked to the increasing use of mobile telephones, a report in the Medical Journal of Australia said.

Cancer specialist Andrew Davidson of Fremantle Hospital in Western Australia said the state's cancer registry had revealed a 50 percent rise in the incidence of the disease in men and a 62.5 percent increase for women in the decade from 1982.

Data from the registry had shown the incidence of brain tumours was 6.4 per 100,000 for males and 4.0 per 100,000 for females in 1982, rising a decade later to 9.6 for males and 6.5 for females.

"It is conjectured that the rise in incidence is related to the use of analogue mobile phones in the late 1980s," Davidson wrote in a letter to the journal.

He said he had repeatedly sought information from Telstra telecommunications network so he could undertake a retrospective study on mobile phone use by brain tumour patients, but had received no reply after a year.

Commenting in the journal on the Western Australian study, former Telstra scientist Bruce Hocking said on the evidence so far there was no proven risk of brain cancer from mobile phones or other communication devices.

"However, mobile phones have been widely used for less than a decade and there are grounds to be cautious," he said.

Hocking, now a private consultant, said he hoped that in future telephone companies would be more cooperative than Davidson had found.

"The phone companies can't say, 'There's nothing to worry about' but 'You can't check either'; they can't have it both ways," Hocking said.

A spokesman for Telstra said no record had been found of correspondence from Davidson, but a search was continuing.

Telstra radio frequency safety manager Jack Rowley said significant privacy concerns would have to be addressed before researchers would be given access to customer billing data.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) was expected to decide by May on allocation of grants for research on the effects of electromagnetic energy and Telstra would consider involvement with the projects.

A spokesman for rival network Optus said the company would be more than happy to assist with research which may "clear up" controversy over the health effects of mobile phones as long as no-one's privacy was violated.

Professor Bruce Armstrong of the New South Wales Cancer Council said the NHMRC would be asked to fund the Australian component of a study proposed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer based in Lyons, France.

"We would expect over two years to collect 300 new cases of brain tumours -- 175 from New South Wales and 125 from Victoria -- and then to find out about these individuals' use of mobile phones," he said.

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