Categories
Bullshit Health

Mobile phones are frying our brains – or at least, they seem to be when we write about them

This story is being widely reported in the mainstream media:

An international team of researchers has found new evidence that long-term use of a mobile phone may lead to the development of a brain tumor on the side of the head the phone is used. In a study which will appear in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Cancer, epidemiologists from five European countries report a nearly 40% increase in gliomas, a type of brain tumor, among those who had used a cell phone for ten or more years. The increase is statistically significant.

Here’s the research the above story refers to. Again, I’ve emphasised the salient points:

For more than 10 years of mobile phone use reported on the side of the head where the tumor was located, an increased OR of borderline statistical significance (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.01, 1.92, p trend 0.04) was found, whereas similar use on the opposite side of the head resulted in an OR of 0.98 (95% CI 0.71, 1.37).  Although our results overall do not indicate an increased risk of glioma in relation to mobile phone use, the possible risk in the most heavily exposed part of the brain with long-term use needs to be explored further before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Now, the “do not indicate an increased risk of glioma” bit seems pretty straightforward to me. Unfortunately I don’t have any grounding in stats (I’m barely numerate) so I’d like to ask for help here – can anyone put the odds ratio stuff in the study abstract into plain English? There seems to be a statistical difference between people claiming to have held their mobiles on one side of their head from the other – but I can barely count to ten, let alone translate ORs and confidence intervals.

(Thanks to David for the links)