back to article 29 years of data shows no mobile phone brain cancer link

An Australian study has found no increase in brain cancers over the last 29 years, despite enormous increase in use of mobile phones. The study, relies on the fact that all cases of cancer are recorded in Australia. That means the study's authors were able to examine “the association between age and gender-specific incidence …

  1. Sebastian A
    Pirate

    A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

    I'm sure it won't make any difference to the "OMG cellphones cause CANCER! I get headaches whenever someone's on the phone near me!" crowd.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

      No, it won't. If you've made your mind up evidence won't change anything.

      When my kids were little, (about 10 years ago) their school got some funding to put Wi-Fi in all the classrooms. Several mothers (and only mothers) screamed blue murder about the school giving the children cancer, so a meeting was arranged to let everyone air their views.

      After the Wi-Fi causes cancer crowd had had their say, a quietly-spoken older man stood up a the back of the room and softly tore all of their arguments with a clever explanation of what radiation is and how it all works, including non-ionizing.

      It made no difference, the mothers still took their kids off to another school.

      10 years later I wonder if those young people are swathed in tin foil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

        @"When my kids were little, (about 10 years ago) their school got some funding to put Wi-Fi in all the classrooms"

        So the data doesn't show cancer? That's because State Sponsored Agents have tampered with the data in subtle ways that cause the outcome to be different. I read it somewhere on the Internet, so it must be true.

        Man what if terrorists get hold of Quantum computers, then they can go back in time and change your Wifi waves into Wifi particles hitting our kids with particle beams at the speed of light!

        ISIS gives kids cancer? And we don't know it? Yet!

        Quick May, to the Twat-Mobile! We need to legislate away some freedoms immediately! To save our kids from terrorist cancer beams!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

        I can assure those type of people are still around.

        Just recently responded to a school's request for a site audit of their wireless network (this was due to performance issues).

        Tacked on to the end of the document from the school was a request to survey the radiation levels of the Wi-Fi APs to make sure they were within Australian Standards. When we discussed this with the IT department it appears that a parent had complained that the Wi-Fi was making their child sick and so the school board had requested that it be added to the site survey.

        1. DocJames

          Re: A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

          Well, you can now send then a link to this paper as an addendum.

          And if they want you to do further work, point out that this will involve refuting a significant body of work so you will need funding. As in a PhD student or 2.

    2. Oengus

      Re: A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

      I get headaches whenever someone's on the phone near me!

      Usually this is caused by the volume the person is talking at and the crap they are spewing out rather than the fact that they are on a mobile... but that won't stop the numpties from making a co-relation.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A peer-reviewed study with citations and sources.

      I get itchy balls.

      Coincidence? I don't think so!

  2. Captain DaFt

    Then again...

    If the whole "mobile phones cause brain cancer" hoopla is pure bunkum, why the Hell do so many smartphone users act brain dead when they use one?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Then again...

      Furthermore, there are those whoy say,

      "using a mobile phone (especially a smartphone) causes addiction"

      There might be some truth in that given how many people are addicted to their phone or rather the social media crap that is delivered through it.

      not on any social media site and as a result, I actually have time to smell the roses.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Then again...

      Simple answer, Cap'n ... 90%+ of the general public are brain-dead (or close enough as makes no never-mind), and will believe anything that marketing tells them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Then again...

      > "...why the Hell do so many smartphone users act brain dead when they use one?"

      They only appear brain dead, but really they are furiously 'interacting' in cyberspace (wherever that is). The giveaway is the thumb-twitching frequency, which is often directly proportional to cyber-activity in the subject.

    4. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Then again...

      > why the Hell do so many smartphone users act brain dead when they use one?

      The phone is the symptom, not the cause.

      And smartphones aren't actually smart, you know... they just seem smart compared to the people who use them.

    5. jelabarre59

      Re: Then again...

      >> If the whole "mobile phones cause brain cancer" hoopla is pure bunkum, why the Hell do so many smartphone users act brain dead when they use one? <<

      Brain-removal is a requirement when you get your MBA.

  3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Has anyone actually paid the $31.50 USD (for 24 hour access) and read the study? The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' which, as far as I can see, quotes from the free press release/abstract on [http://www.cancerepidemiology.net/article/S1877-7821(16)30050-9/abstract].

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      I'd have hoped a respectable publication like El Reg would have paid the $31.50 to read the article and actually study it before writing about it.

      I mean, this isn't The S*n or The Daily Fail. It doesn't make stuff up as it goes along.

      Or does it?

    2. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

      The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

      The Reg article says "Lead author Simon Chapman, emeritus professor in public health at the University of Sydney, explains at The Conversation..." - i.e. the article in the Conversation was written one of the researchers who worked on the study and wrote the scientific article under discussion. Unless anyone on the Reg is a cancer specialist of some kind it's debatable whether reading the original research article would have helped.

      It might be said, however, that the Reg could have contacted some other researcher in the same general field to get an (alternate) opinion.

      Is there something about the original research you want to know in particular?

      1. JetSetJim

        Re: The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

        > Unless anyone on the Reg is a cancer specialist of some kind it's debatable whether reading the original research article would have helped.

        I suspect it was harder to do the statistics rather than the cancer bit. All they needed were demographics of each incidence of cancer, and then develop a time varying statistical model over the study time window for "what are the chances of an X year old getting cancer of type Y in year Z". Then show that the Z variable makes bugger all(*) difference to the model

        (*) "Bugger all" - a quantified statistical value near-enough equal to zero

        1. DocJames
          Coat

          Re: The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

          It's an epidemiology paper, not a "cancer" paper as such.

          You don't need to know anything about cancer (or mobile phones, or ionising v nonionising radiation) to follow the logic of the paper. It describes a steady rate of X (cancer) in women with a slight rise in men, despite claimed risk factor Y (mobile phone use) going from a tiny incidence to a massive one.

          Proving negatives is always fun (not) so that's why this is a difficult paper. Not that I've bothered to read it.

          DOI: a doctor, but not interested in cancer

          It's the white one. -->

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

        Yes. I was curious if there was any differentiation between digital and analog mobile phones, i.e. frequencies, wattage, etc.

        I don't know how it was in Australia - in Krautistan (pocket-sized) mobile phones took off with analog phones (C-Net) in the late 1980ies and were replaced by digital ones in the mid-1990ies (D-Net). Both the nets ran parallel well into the turn of the century, IIRC. Before that there was the A-Net and the B-Net, but the phones were so large you could actually climb inside and drive around with them...

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

          I was curious if there was any differentiation between digital and analog mobile phones, i.e. frequencies, wattage, etc.

          Frequencies are different all over Australia both geocraphically and temporally. That said, from a physics standpoint both the frequencies in use (waaaaaaaaaaaay the heck lower than ionizing radiation) and the wattages in use (the most powerful might heat up your ear a little) are so close as to be irrelevant.

          There is no mechanism by which the radiation emitted from a cell phone can cause cancer. Full stop.

          Cell phones themselves may contain carcinogens, just like any plastic covered electronics, but I don't of too many people that go around eating their cell phones. And that isn't likely to give you brain cancer, per se.

          I took a gander at the report itself and from I can see the epidemiology work is spot on. Unless you happen to be one of those people who are immune to scientific evidence in your decision-making, this really should put to bed the rank insanity that is the "non-ionizing radiation causes brain cancer" crusade.

          Sadly, a significant portion of the population is immune to scientific evidence. Tragically, we do not yet posses the technology to ship them all to Mars.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

            "There is no mechanism by which the radiation emitted from a cell phone can cause cancer. Full stop."

            The only risk factor I ever worried about was the heat of the phone itself possibly causing cancer in an ear. That worry went away 25 years ago though, they run a lot cooler now.

          2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: The El Reg article quotes from an article in 'The Conversation' ...

            "Sadly, a significant portion of the population is immune to scientific evidence. Tragically, we do not yet posses the technology to ship them all to Mars."

            The technology is there allright. The problem, as always, is the funding. Of course, preliminary studies should be made regarding the effects introducing an invasive species into Mars' ecology.

            "... this really should put to bed the rank insanity that is the "non-ionizing radiation causes brain cancer" crusade."

            It should (in fact, there shouldn't even be a discussion about it in the first place), but it won't - thoughout human history scientific evidence has never convinced the insane otherwise.

            But all this still doesn't answer my original question. It's all about closure, dude... and a harmless obsession with statistics.

  4. Shane 4

    Study

    Who funded the study?

    Philip Morris?

  5. Ole Juul

    next up

    A study showing increase in brain cancer in people who walked around with a smart meter taped to their heads for 29 years. OK, I guess it may be difficult to get volunteers. Then how about a study showing lowered intelligence in those who suffer from the effects of radio wave paranoia?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: next up

      Just download the geiger counter app.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: next up

      "Then how about a study showing lowered intelligence in those who suffer from the effects of radio wave paranoia?"

      I think you have that bassakwards ... try instead "suffering from the effects of lower intelligence, leading to radio wave paranoia".

      1. Tom -1

        Re: next up

        "I think you have that bassakwards ... try instead "suffering from the effects of lower intelligence, leading to radio wave paranoia"

        No, it's a vicious circle so iyt can be expressed either way - the paranoia leads to lower intelligence which amplifies the paranoia which descreases the intelligence which ....

  6. Gomez Adams

    Massive increase in mobile phone use yes. But how much of that is actually holding the thing against your head making a traditional voice call?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next, how about a study of low-energy light-bulbs & cancer

    When low-energy light-bulbs first appeared on the scene, there was a warning to students about not sitting to close to the bulb... Bulbs that look like their conventional predecessors are fine, its the more common type where active parts are exposed that are the problem apparently... Anyone else come across a study into this?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Next, how about a study of low-energy light-bulbs & cancer

      I would be more worried by an increase in mercury poisoning from said low-energy bulbs being dumped in landfill and leaching in to the water table over a few decades. But then I don't know the facts so could be talking out of my arse for all anyone knows...

    2. Lee D

      Re: Next, how about a study of low-energy light-bulbs & cancer

      Please describe the possible avenue of such problems occuring, and then we can debunk that nonsense quicker for you.

      Are you suggesting the bulb material? It seems not. The chemicals in a bulb of any kind probably aren't too good for you, but you shouldn't be inhaling them anyway.

      Are you suggesting some electromagnetic discharge damaging your head from metres away? I refer you to the study herein. Electromagnetic energy is SWAMPING you all over your body all the time everywhere you go. In modern life you literally CANNOT escape it short of moving to the jungle hundreds of miles from anywhere and even there you can't get "zero" electromagnetic energy.

      The amount of that stuff that ionises or is so powerful to have an effect is literally so miniscule as to be extremely rare and unusual and present much more dangerous hazards (e.g. working on a radio mast can be incredibly dangerous because it's dozens of KW of electricity flowing through it and you're more likely to be physically zapped than your brain fried).

      Many of the early energy saving bulbs were actually nothing more than CFL's in a funny package. We've been using those for, quite literally, decades without anything noticeable. Even the "Ooh, flourescents give me headaches" people have shut up in the last 20 years because almost everything is flourescent - including almost all schools I've ever worked in - and until someone specifically mentions it, nobody complains at all. Seriously, have you been in a hospital, school, or public building in the last 30 years that didn't have flourescnts? And how many photo-sensitive people do you know who literally can't step foot in such buildings because their doctors have said it's too dangerous for them? I'm guessing zero.

      Honestly, with any bulb of any kind, you're at more risk from dodgy wiring or burning your hand on it than you are anything to do with it affecting your brain at a distance. Especially once you apply the inverse cube law (i.e. doubling the distance from it will cut the emissions you receive by one eighth), even if you do that on the order of centimetres.

      The reason people don't do studies like this, except when public opinion is so wrong that it needs correction, is that nobody can actually describe a single viable mechanism that it could possibly use to do you damage.

      Did you know, powerlines stand more chance of BLINDING YOU than frying your brain? A powerline can be invisibly damaged such that high UV-levels of light are emitted from otherwise indetectable arcing. Power companies hire helicopters with UV cameras to run down their routes and double-check every few months because it usually indicates a potential wiring fault. YouTube it, you can see the footage from such helicopters. And your eyes have no defence against UV because the eye cannot "see" it so it won't activate the safety mechanism of a squint or blink.

      The problem is that people a) don't understand simple physics, b) lack knowledge of how that applies to simple biology, c) don't get that placebo effect and even things like scaremongering affect people's perception of their local world (i.e. they think that CFL's are giving them headaches, except when they don't know there's a CFL in the room) and d) never bother to evaluate risk against risk.

      Short answer: No.

      Long answer: The mercury-powder in the bulb is almost infinitely more dangerous to you.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Next, how about a study of low-energy light-bulbs & cancer

        "Even the "Ooh, flourescents give me headaches" people have shut up in the last 20 years"

        Flourescents at the end of their lives visibly flicker to me in peripheral vision and I find it irritating (especially if there's a migraine coming on), but that's not cause and effect - they don't _cause_ the migraines.

        Likewise I find that cheap leds flicker enough to be annoying - but the simple solution to that is to make sure that you get ones with decent regulators in them instead of a bridge rectifier and capacitor in series. Those cheap ones tend to be overdriven anyway, which leads to early burnout.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next, how about a study of low-energy light-bulbs & cancer

      The links below are just a quick web search. Overall the risks seem to be divided into three main areas. The first is obvious, A. if the bulb breaks apart or is recklessly disposed of. Leaving that aside for a moment, the two less obvious risks mentioned are B. skin cancer risks to someone with a pre-existing skin condition being too close to certain un-encapsulated light bulbs for long periods of time. And C. Toxic particles being emitted from certain low energy light bulbs... Feel free to debunk away...

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/8462626/Energy-saving-light-bulbs-contain-cancer-causing-chemicals.html

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/led-lightbulb-concerns/

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2626564/The-medical-experts-refuse-use-low-energy-lightbulbs-homes-Professors-stocked-old-style-bulbs-protect-against-skin-cancer-blindness-So-YOU-worried.html

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7661462.stm

  8. jake Silver badge

    Duh.

    Cell phone technology doesn't use ionizing radiation.

    The thing the paranoid should be worried about is sunlight.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Duh.

      Indeed:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_cancer_in_Australia

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Duh.

        True actually, especially there's been initial studies done in to skin cancer and it's correlation with the sale of sun screen/sun block creams. Skin Cancer is on the rise, but so are the sales of the creams.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Duh.

          "Skin Cancer is on the rise, but so are the sales of the creams."

          Two parts are at work:

          1: Most of the creams don't provide their claimed protection unless slathered on thick enough to be visible

          2: Several of the extreme SPF factor chemicals turned out to be mildly carcinogenic.

  9. Lee D

    Honestly, was anyone with a brain ever expecting anything else?

    We'd be dead already from all kinds of other stuff now if this was true.

    P.S. I work in schools and want a refund for all the time, effort and money I've personally wasted on this, including meetings at previous schools where parents complained about phone masts near the school (that we had no control over as it wasn't our property), wifi points in the classroom, etc. while simultaneously asking why they couldn't make phone calls inside the school or pick up their email while they waited for their little darlings, handing their children wifi-pumping babysitting tablets for use in the car as soon as they got out of school, and strapping phones and bluetooth dongle to their own heads WHILE DRIVING.

    But no, obviously the risk is some mast several hundred metres away that you passed dozens of on the way to school but just didn't notice, and some wifi point in a corridor because it has blinky lights and looks "scary".

    Do you know, I still get subtly asked by parents if I "know" I'm frying their children's brains by putting wifi into schools? Usually in the same breath that they mention they couldn't get on the guest Wifi from their smartphone to check Twitter to see when the cricket match ends.

    And when I answer with studies like this, they look at me as disbelieving as if I was telling them that their children eating asbestos is absolutely fine and normal.

    It also reminds me of the guy who "used to work for BT" who insisted that if you ran fibre optic and power in the same duct it would "interfere with the signal".

    Can I please book the entire world on an introductory physics course covering electromagnetism?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Eating asbestos wouldn't be normal, but actually quite harmless. You'd probably scrape your throat, but asbestos isn't a problem when it's ingested. It's a problem when it's inhaled. There are still a lot of water pipelines in use that are made of asbestos-reinforced concrete. (Did the TGRS 519 qualification once, if that means anything to you.)

    2. Captain DaFt

      "all the time, effort and money I've personally wasted on this, including meetings at previous schools where parents complained"

      Yes, that's the problem with working in schools, you have to be diplomatic.

      Making the frank and succinct reply, "Stop being a daft bint, you're showing less intelligence than our worst student.", will get you in a world of trouble.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Making the frank and succinct reply, "Stop being a daft bint, you're showing less intelligence than our worst student.", will get you in a world of trouble."

        Well, the word bint is derogatory in English usage.

        But in a world in which the BBC is supposed to give equal time to very one-sided arguments in the interests of so-called "balance", we perhaps need a lot more people willing to say "You're being daft, nobody who has ever spent any time on the subject believes that."

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Making the frank and succinct reply"

        I'm happy to do it as a parent and I'd call them nastier things than "daft bint"

    3. Jeffrey Nonken

      Probably the same people who try to convince me that higher quality digital audio interconnect cables will give better bass response.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably negligible in commercial fibre / installations, but good physics...

      Kerr effect - variation of refractive index in a material subjected to electric field https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerr_effect

      Faraday effect - rotation of polarisation of light in a medium subject to magnetic field https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_effect

      (Both undergrad physics experiments)

      It's not completely daft to suppose that running (high) power (or volts) and fibre in parallel over long distances could conceivably cause issues...

  10. Elmer Phud

    But what about the rest of it?

    My phone may not be spreading cancer after all but I know it sends subliminal messages about multi-vaccinations and that measles is on the increase .

  11. Stevie

    Bah!

    Wothless "study".

    The phones only cause cancer if the user has been vaccinated.

  12. Bucky 2

    I'm hopeful that those who insisted that cell phones caused cancer will at least have the good grace to commit suicide.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But Stupidity...

    I can supply all sorts of anecdotal evidence.

  14. JulieM
    Holmes

    So now .....

    I predict there will be another study, this time dedicated to looking even harder for the smoking-gun evidence that mobile phones cause cancer.

  15. Jeffrey Nonken

    I blame Marconi. If he hadn't invented radio waves, the government wouldn't be using them for mind control!

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