A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

Interphone Results Due Out on May 18

May 7, 2010

The first results of the Interphone project will be released on May 18, Microwave News has learned. The paper will be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. "It is scheduled to be in the June issue," said an assistant in the journal's editorial office in Bristol, England. An electronic copy of the paper will be posted on the "advance access" page of the journal's Web site on the 18th.

Interphone is the largest and most expensive epidemiological study of the possible tumor risks associated with the use of mobile phones ever attempted. Research teams in 13 countries are participating in the project which is being coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France. The Interphone project, which has cost approximately $30 million to date, was originally scheduled to be completed in mid-2005, but work came to a halt as the individual national teams could not agree on how to interpret the findings of an increased incidence of tumors among long-term users of mobile phones (see "Set Interphone Free" and "The Cracks Begin To Show").

A spokeswoman at the Oxford University Press, the publisher of the journal, said that the press release is in the process of being finalized by IARC and will be distributed under embargo, probably at the end of next week. Nicolas Gaudin, IARC's head of communications, did not respond to a request for comment on the timing of the release. It is not yet known whether IARC will allow the paper to be open access, that is, available to all at no charge.

There are reports that Elisabeth Cardis, the head of Interphone, has been invited to present the results on May 27 in Bordeaux, France at a meeting sponsored by the European BioElectromagnetics Association, COST and URSI Commission K. Cardis told Microwave News that she is awaiting confirmation from the conference organizers.

The Interphone stalemate has become a major embarrassment for IARC. When Christopher Wild took over as IARC director in January 2009, he made publishing the results a top priority. Five months later, the paper was submitted to a journal. Even so, it took another year for the group to complete the rewrites that are part of the peer-review process. This prompted rumors that the epidemiologists were, once again, fighting among themselves —or as some have remarked, behaving badly.

But, the paper to be released on the 18th will only address brain tumors, not acoustic neuromas or parotid gland tumors. Work on those parts of the project stopped years ago, as did efforts to use location data to see whether the tumors are in the cell phones' radiation plume (see "Much Remains To Be Done"). Some believe that these analyses may never be completed. "It appears unlikely that the Interphone investigators will work together to finish the rest of what was supposed to be done," Joe Bowman of U.S. NIOSH in Cincinnati told Microwave News, "It would be a crime if that happened, so I hope I'm wrong." Bowman is on the exposure assessment team for the Interphone project.

Study teams from Individual countries, as well a group of five northern European countries, have published their own results —some as early as 2005. IARC posted a list of these papers, as well as full list of all project publications in its last Interphone status report, dated October 8, 2008. At that time, the project had produced a total of 42 papers. IARC has also posted a copy of the study protocol, which was completed in 2001.