Largest Study on Cell Phones and Brain Cancer Finds No Link, But the Debate Isn’t Over
Proving a negative in science is really, really hard — and that may well be the task that researchers trying to evaluate the potentially carcinogenic effects of cell phone use may have before them.
To wit: in a new study published in the BMJ, European researchers — looking at more than 300,000 Danes who had used cell phones — concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that using a cell phone increased the chance of developing a brain tumor. That was true even for people who had used cell phones for more than a decade, and the BMJ study is the biggest so far to look at cell phone radiation and cancer. As the study authors themselves wrote in the conclusion:
In this update of a large nationwide cohort study of mobile phone use, there were no increased risks of tumours of the central nervous system, providing little evidence for a causal association.
Case closed, right? That all depends on your perspective. Other researchers and activists were quick to criticize the study, arguing that it was still not broad enough to fully exonerate cell phones. Devra Davis, an expert in the environmental causes of illness and the president of the Environmental Health Trust, said in a statement:
From the way it was set up originally, this deeply flawed study was designed to fail to find an increased risk of brain tumors tied with cellphone use. In order for any study of a relatively rare disease like brain tumors to find a change in risk, millions must be followed for decades.
Indeed, that’s what makes it so hard to design a study that can give us a definitive answer on the potential risks — if any — posed by cell phones. Brain tumors are extremely rare and strike for mostly unknown reasons, and they can take decades to develop. Cell phones have only been used heavily for the past decade or so, which means that enough time may not have yet passed for the potential impacts of cell phone use to show up in brain cancer statistics…