Brain cancer warning to mobile phone users

Mobile phone users could be increasing their chances of developing brain cancer, experts have warned.

Scientists for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said radiofrequency electromagnetic fields associated with mobile handsets potentially increase the risk of glioma, a malignant type of the disease.

Despite the warning, the Department of Health said it would not be altering its position that a “precautionary approach” should be taken to mobile phone use and that children should only use handsets for “essential purposes and keep all calls short”.

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The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said there was no clear scientific evidence of a cancer risk from exposure to radiofrequencies at levels below international guidelines.

However, it added that the possibility did still remain and that additional research into the matter should be carried out.

Following a week-long IARC working group meeting in Lyon, France, 31 scientists from 14 countries classified the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields associated with mobiles as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B).

It puts them below the higher risk levels of Group 1 (“carcinogenic to humans”) and Group 2A (“probably carcinogenic to humans”).

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Other substances that have been classified as “possible carcinogenic” include DDT and lead.

The agency, which is part of the World Health Organisation, said there are around five billion mobile phone subscriptions around the world, and the number is growing, particularly among young adults and children.

Working group chairman Jonathan Samet said: “The evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification.”

The scientist, from the University of Southern California, added: “The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”

The HPA said it noted the IARC’s finding and supported “the call for additional research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones”.