NY Times, Wed., Dec. 20, 2000
Cell Phone Studies See No Link to Brain Cancer
By GINA KOLATA
Two of the most rigorous studies yet completed on the relationship between
cellular phones and brain tumors have found that cell-phone users are no
more likely than anyone else to develop benign tumors or malignant brain
One study, supported by the National Cancer Institute, was released last
night, weeks ahead of its scheduled publication in The New England Journal
of Medicine, to match a similar study, which was paid for by the cell-phone
industry and the federal government, that is being published today in The
Journal of the American Medical Association.
Scientists and public health experts said that the results should help ease
the fears among many Americans that cell phones now estimated to be used
by more than 90 million residents can cause brain cancer, which strikes
16,500 Americans a year.
Other large studies are in progress or nearing publication, said Dr. Kenneth
J. Rothman, a professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of
Public Health. But Dr. Rothman said of the new studies, "They are the best
information to date, and they provide much reassurance."
The Federal Communications Commission has set standards for the maximum
amount of microwave, or radiofrequency, radiation that cell phones can emit.
In a published statement, the commission explained that while the federal
government continues to assess research on cell-phone safety, studies have
led "expert organizations to conclude that typical RF exposures from these
devices are safe."
The cancer institute's study, directed by Dr. Peter Inskip and Dr. Martha S.
Linet, involved 782 patients with brain tumors or with benign tumors of the
lining of the brain or of the acoustic nerve, which connects the brain to
the ear. The researchers compared their cell-phone use with that of 799
patients who were of the same sex, age and race but who did not have brain
The other, smaller, study, led by Dr. Joshua E. Muscat of the American
Health Foundation, a private, nonprofit research organization in Valhalla,
N.Y., compared the cell- phone use of 469 brain cancer patients with that of
422 patients who were of the same age, sex and race but who did not have
Both groups of investigators found that no matter how they analyzed the
data, there was not even a hint that use of a cell phone was linked to brain
tumors. The patients with brain tumors were no more likely to use cell
phones. Those who used cell phones for longer periods were no more likely to
get brain tumors. And brain tumors were no more likely to occur near where
the cell phone was held to the head than on the opposite side of the brain.
"Based on the published evidence to date, I don't think there's any evidence
that cell phones cause cancer," Dr. Inskip said.
Dr. Mark G. Malkin, a neurologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
in New York who was an author of the smaller study, said, "We think this is
Dr. Malkin noted that cell phones had not been in widespread use for many
years and that cancers could take years to develop; thus, he said, it might
be worthwhile to repeat the studies in years to come.
But, he said, he uses a cell phone and continues to do so. And, he said, he
tells his brain cancer patients not to worry about using the phones.
Scientists said a study from Denmark, to be published soon in The Journal of
the National Cancer Institute, provided equally reassuring news. Danish
researchers identified thousands of cell-phone users from telephone company
records, then reviewed medical records to examine if any association existed
between use of the device and development of brain cancers. They found none.