Major research initiatives are needed immediately to assess
the possibility that using cellular
may lead to an increased risk of brain tumors, according
to an editorial in the November issue of the journal Surgical
published by Elsevier.
Recent studies have raised concerns that long-term exposure
fields (ELF or EMF) from cell-phone handsets can increase
the risk of brain
cancers and other nervous system tumors, according to
the editorial by Dr. Ron Pawl, a neurosurgeon at Lake Forest
Hospital, Lake Forest, Ill. He calls for collaborative research
initiatives to determine whether the link between cell phones
and brain cancer is real.
Scientists have long been concerned over the possibility
that ELF exposure may increase the risk of brain cancers.
Until recently, however, research has shown no clear link
between cell phone use and brain tumors.
Earlier this year, a Swedish research group published an
epidemiologic study suggesting an increased risk of brain
cancers (gliomas) as well as acoustic nerve tumors (neuromas)
in people using cell phones for ten years or longer. Tumors
were more likely to develop on the same side as the cell phone
was used. Other studies by the same group suggested that the
use of wireless handsets in cordless home phones posed the
After reviewing the evidence, one author even suggested that
long-term cell phone use is "more dangerous to health than
smoking cigarettes." Other recent commentators have raised
The findings are alarming in light of the exponential growth
of cell phones-now including widespread use by children and
teenagers. The damaging effects of ELF, if any, might be even
greater in the developing brain.
If the link is real, then rates of brain cancers should have
increased over the last two decades. Some studies have reported
that this is the case, particularly for the most malignant
brain cancers. However, other studies have found a stable
Some commentators have suggested that apparent increases
in the number of brain cancers might reflect the use of sophisticated
imaging techniques like computed tomography and magnetic resonance
imaging. "However, the fact that the incidence of gliomas,
especially the more malignant varieties, is increasing [.]
warrants action on this issue," Dr. Pawl writes.
The problem, according to Dr. Pawl, is that no other research
groups have performed actual studies showing a clear relationship
between brain tumors and ELF. He calls on scientific societies
to play a leading role in designing and conducting studies
that will definitively determine the risks of brain cancer
associated with ELF exposure, particularly from cell phones.
"It seems that a cooperative effort by both the scientific
community and state governing bodies will be needed," writes
Dr. Pawl. "Some spearhead is now necessary in view of the
magnitude and seriousness of the situation."