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Health Technology

Another mobile phone study

This one’s important: it’s looking at long-term use of phones. I interviewed the man behind the proposed new study, Professor Lawrie Challis, for last month’s PC Plus story on electrosensitivity and other tech-related health scares, and he’s a great example of how the “no evidence” side of health issues should be addressed (he’s a great interviewee, too. I could have filled the magazine ten times over with his interview alone). Here’s a quick extract from the PC Plus feature where he talks about the evidence for mobile-related nasties:

“We’ve studied a whole raft of things from blood pressure to memory, attention, hormone levels, balance, inner ear function…” he says. “And so far, we’ve found absolutely nothing, which is consistent with other studies that have been carried out. Ours is the biggest study of its type, and I think it’s fairly clear that there are no short-term effects on the brain’s function… none of the studies we have supported, nor the other studies that have come out around the world, have found any connection between mobile use and brain cancers or brain tumours.”

There’s a fairly big caveat, though. As Professor Challis points out, studies have looked at people who’ve been using mobile phones for fewer than 10 years – largely because mobiles weren’t widespread before then – but “nearly all cancers take more than ten years to develop”. In a few cases, where people have been using mobiles for more than ten years, “there seems to be a very small correlation between brain tumours and mobile phone use.” However, that correlation could be experimental bias or a statistical anomaly.

“There are still holes in what we know,” Professor Challis says.

In essence, then, we’ve looked and looked again and there’s no evidence of any danger, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep looking.