A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

Elisabeth Cardis: Microwave News Article Archive (2004 - )

December 18, 2009

Pity those who are trying to follow the cell phone–brain tumor story. Their sense of the cancer risk is most likely a reflection of the last thing they read or saw on TV —It all depends on whose sound bite they happen to catch.

Take, for example, a paper published earlier this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) by a team of Scandinavian epidemiologists, under a rather bland title — "Time Trends in Brain Tumor Incidence Rates in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, 1974–2003." But its message is anything but: Because there has been no increase in brain tumors between 1998 and 2003, a period when the use of cell phones "increased sharply," cell phones are cancer safe.

October 28, 2009

Saturday's lead story in the Telegraph made believe that the U.K. daily had gotten hold of the much-delayed and much sought-after final results of the Interphone study — and that they showed that using a cell phone does indeed increase the risk of developing a brain tumor. Under the headline "Mobiles: New Cancer Alert," the newspaper proclaimed that, "Long-term use of mobile phones may be linked to some cancers, a landmark international study will conclude later this year." In its inside pages were a number of related stories, notably "People Must Be Told About Mobile Phone Dangers, Say Experts" and a sidebar about Larry Mills who had developed a tumor "exactly where he held the phone." The story was pitched as an "EXCLUSIVE" and was soon picked up by many other newspapers and Web sites.

May 11, 2009

The stalemate over Interphone is coming to an end. A project of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on the possible links between mobile phones and tumors, Interphone has been bogged down for over three years while its members feuded over how to interpret their results. Now, Microwave News has learned, a paper on brain tumor risks is about to be submitted for publication. Christopher Wild, the director of IARC, forced a compromise to resolve what had become a major embarrassment for the agency.

December 5, 2008

As the seemingly endless wait for the Interphone results drags on and on —the feud over the final results is now entering its fourth year— the BioInitiative Working Group is proposing a different approach: Each of the five participating countries that have not yet published their own data, either singly or in groups, should do so as soon as possible. The message is clear: If the members of the Interphone project cannot agree on how to interpret the combined results from all 13 countries, let others give it a try.

October 20, 2008

A spate of spurious stories that were in the news last week needs to be aired and corrected. They also provide yet another reason to get the Interphone study out as soon as possible.

Le Soir, one of Belgium's leading French-language newspapers, kicked it off on the 15th. "GSM Is Carcinogenic" ran the headline at the top of its front page. The paper based its scoop on what it called the first results of the Interphone study, adapted from the latest project update, which had been posted on IARC's Web site the previous week. In fact, they were really old news. The last update, issued in February, had already included those results that point to a tumor risk —they were far from conclusive, however. As Elisabeth Cardis, the coordinator of Interphone, later confirmed to Microwave News, "There is nothing new in terms of risk in that [October] update." In two follow-on stories in its inside pages, Le Soir took a more measured tone, noting that these new "disturbing" results need to be confirmed. Cardis, now at CREAL in Barcelona, told the paper: "We must remain cautious in the interpretation of the Interphone results." Her words stand in contrast to the less than cautious warning on page one.

September 18, 2008

"Where is Interphone?" asked Ian Gibson, a member of the U.K. Parliament, at last week's Radiation Research Trust (RRT) conference in London. "Whose desk is it on?" No one offered an answer, not even Anders Ahlbom, a member of the Swedish Interphone group, who earlier that morning had given a talk on EMF epidemiology.

August 1, 2008

The results of the Interphone study may finally surface by the end of the year. In an interview with Le Monde, published today, Elisabeth Cardis said the paper with the combined data from the 13 participating countries should be submitted for publication in September. If the peer-review process proceeds smoothly, it should then be available in the late fall. Cardis, the leader of the Interphone project who is now at CREAL in Barcelona, confirmed the schedule to Microwave News.

June 19, 2008

The divisions within the Interphone project are coming out into the open. As the delay in releasing the final results approaches the three-year mark, the tensions within the study team are no longer much of a secret. It's even becoming clearer who is in which camp —who believes that cell phones present a tumor risk and who thinks the phones are safe.

May 31, 2008

Some news notes on the Interphone study:

• Those who say there are no long-term cell phone risks often point to the Interphone study from Japan, published earlier this year, for support. As we have previously reported, the Japanese researchers said there was no association between cell phones and brain tumors, even though they found a close to sixfold increase in glioma among heavily-exposed users after ten or more years (see our February 15 post). That link was based on a small number of cases and was not statistically significant; the Japanese attributed the increase to recall bias. Bruce Hocking, an occupational and environmental health physician in Melbourne, Australia, suggests otherwise. In a letter published this week in the British Journal of Cancer, Hocking points out that the risk of meningioma (another type of brain tumor) is hardly raised at all (OR=1.14). He writes: "If recall bias is the true explanation for the increased risk of glioma, it should similarly have affected the meningioma group, but it has not. Therefore, the increased risk in the glioma group may be a true finding."

April 28, 2008

Another Interphone researcher is expressing concern over the tumor risks associated with the long-term use of mobile phones. "I think the evidence that is accumulating is pointing towards an effect of mobile phones on tumors," Professor Bruce Armstrong of the University of Sydney School of Public Health told "TodayTonight," an Australian current affairs show on Channel 7, a national network.

February 15, 2008

If anyone is still not convinced that the completed Interphone study should be released as soon as possible (see our January 30 post), they need look no further than how the Interphone results from Japan were handled last week.

January 30, 2008

It's time to end the deadlock. It's time to release the results of the Interphone study, the largest and most expensive cell phone epidemiological study ever attempted. Any further delay would be close to scandalous.

A draft of the final paper with the combined data from the 13 participating countries was completed close to two years ago. One member of the Interphone team —Canada's Dan Krewski— has said that the holdup is due to disagreements over editing the manuscript, that is, changing a comma here or a comma there. We doubt that what's going on. Krewski told us this close to six months ago and the paper has still not been submitted for publication.

October 9, 2007

Why is the Interphone study not finished yet? "The interpretation is not straightforward," Elisabeth Cardis told Microwave News in an interview from her office at IARC in Lyon, France. The data are "very difficult to interpret because of the potential problems of recall and selection bias," she explained.

October 3, 2007

Interphone 2.0 is underway. This second phase of the Interphone project is investigating the possible link between brain tumors and occupational exposures to various types of EMFs —not just those from mobile phones— as well as to chemicals.

September 24, 2007

The Swiss National Research Program on Non-Ionizing Radiation (NRP57) will hold a one-day wokshop, Dosimetry Meets Epidemiology, on January 11 in Zurich. The focus will be on exposure assessment in EMF epidemiology. Anders Ahlbom, Jørgen Bach Andersen, Alexander Borbély, Elisabeth Cardis and Yngve Hamnerius, all members of NRP57's steering committee, will chair the three sessions. Among those on the program are Joe Bowman of U.S. NIOSH, Niels Kuster of IT'IS, Mike Kelsh of Exponent and Martin Röösli of the University of Bern. There is only room for 60 attendees and we are told that half the spots are already taken. For more information, contact Christian Mottas at the Swiss National Science Foundation.

September 19, 2007

The French Interphone results are out and they are not reassuring.

The French study team, which includes Elisabeth Cardis, who is in charge of the overall Interphone project, has found high rates of brain tumors (gliomas) among heavy cell phone users. It's not a significant result, statistically speaking, but what is noteworthy is that this excess was apparent regardless of the way a heavy user was defined. As the researchers themselves put it: There is a "general tendency" for a greater glioma risk for "long-term users, heavy users [and] users with the largest numbers of telephones."

July 28, 2007

The "methods" paper for the Interphone study on mobile phone tumor risks has been posted on the European Journal of Epidemiology's Web site. The full text of the 18-page paper can be downloaded free of charge. IARC's Elisabeth Cardis is the lead author; she has 47 coauthors. There is still no word on when the long-awaited results of the study will appear —they were originally scheduled to be ready as early as 2003-2004.

December 4, 2006

IARC's Elisabeth Cardis, who is running the Interphone study, gave an overview of the 13-country effort together with the results to date at an EC seminar in Brussels on November 20. Her PowerPoint presentation is well worth a look.

Cardis places special emphasis on long-term (ten or more ten years) risks of brain tumors and acoustic neuroma. She also contrasts the findings of the various national studies that have already been published with those of Sweden's Lennart Hardell and U.S.’s Peter Inskip (though Inskip’s participants had many fewer years of exposure). The final Interphone results are expected next year.

 

September 22, 2005

The week of October 3 in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) will set its recommendations for public exposures to power-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

A 20-member task group from 17 countries, assembled by Michael Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, will finalize an Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document, which is designed to guide the development of standards for extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs all over the world. It will likely represent WHO’s official position on EMF health risks for years to come.

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