A new report again brings up the oft-asked question, "is there a link between cell phone use and brain tumors," also known as "do cell phones cause brain cancer?" What's most interesting is that the report additionally details eleven design flaws of the 13-country, Telecom-funded Interphone study, which was intended to determine the risks of brain tumors with cell phone use, though its full publication has been held up for years.
Similar to just about anything (think of the dueling experts usually brought in for court cases), you can find conflicting expert views and reports on just about any subject. The cell phone radiation / brain tumor argument is no different.
The report (.PDF), titled "Cellphones and Brain Tumors, 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone," asserts that portions of the Interphone study which have been published to date "reveal what the authors call a ‘systemic-skew’, greatly underestimating brain tumor risk."
The Interphone study, began in 1999 and completed in 2004, has still not been published in its entirety. The authors of the new "15 Reasons" study recommend that consumers read "independent" studies, as opposed to Interphone's, which was funded by the very industry that lines its coffers with money from cell phone users.
Here are the flaws in the Interphone study, as outlined by the "15 Reasons" authors:
Flaw 1: Selection Bias
As the researchers point out, when asked to participate in a "cellphone study," it is reasonable to assume controls who use a cellphone are more likely to participate than controls who do not use a cellphone.
Flaw 2: Insufficient Latency Time
The researchers point out that the known latency time (the time between exposure and diagnosis) for brain tumors is 30+ years, similar to lung cancer from smoking, and mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.
Flaw 3: Definition of “Regular” Cellphone User
Flaw 4: Exclusion of Young Adults and Children from the Interphone Study
Flaw 5: Brain Tumor Risk from Cellphones Radiating Higher Power in Rural Areas Were Not Investigated
Flaw 6: Exposure to Other Transmitting Sources Are Not Considered
Flaw 7: Exclusion of Brain Tumor Types
Flaw 8: Tumors Outside the Cellphone’s Radiation Plume Are Treated as Exposed
Showing fairness by the new study's authors, this flaw actually overestimates the risk.
Flaw 9: Exclusion of Brain Tumor Cases Because of Death or Too Ill to Respond
Flaw 10: Recall Accuracy of Cellphone Use
Why not use billing from carriers (with permission of the participants) rather than of relying on memory?
Flaw 11: Funding Bias
Naturally, the biggest flaw of all.
You can expect carriers, cell phone manufacturers, and the like to dispute this report. The report doesn't say cell phones should be banned, but that caution should be taken, and that the risks are likely higher than thought.
Here's a very good (in terms of common sense) quote from one of the endorsers of the study, Chris Woollams M.A. Biochemistry (Oxon), Editor Integrated Cancer and Oncology News, CEO CANCERactive:
“In a world where a drug cannot be launched without proof that it is safe, where the use of herbs and natural compounds available to all since early Egyptian times are now questioned, their safety subjected to the deepest scrutiny, where a new food cannot be launched without prior approval, the idea that we can use mobile telephony, including masts, and introduce WiFi and mobile phones without restrictions around our 5 year olds is double-standards gone mad. I speak, not just as an editor and scientist that has looked in depth at all the research, but as a father that lost his beloved daughter to a brain tumour.”