Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer, or Not? – The Atlantic

But this hasn’t quieted those who are concerned. In 2015, nearly 200 scientists from across the world signed an open letter urging the United Nations and the World Health Organization to develop stricter rules around wireless technology and public health. Their concerns weren’t limited to cell phones, but included a slew of devices like baby monitors, WiFi, cordless phones, and so on.

In May, a group of researchers published in PLOS ONE the results of a meta-analysis that found a “significant” association between long-term mobile phone use and the risk of glioma, the class of tumors that includes glioblastoma. But the actual significance of the link is questionable. The data they used spanned 11 studies between 1980 and 2016, but the researchers themselves acknowledged the evidence is limited and much of the data is “poor quality.” The biggest takeaway, then, may be their conclusion that more study is needed.

A National Toxicology Program study last year found that male rats exposed to cell-phone radiation for about nine hours a day over a two-year period were more likely to develop two kinds of malignant tumors, including gliomas.

Other studies have found correlations between long-term cell-phone use and glioma—especially among people who exclusively hold the phone to the same side of their head. A 2010 paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology, for example, found people with the highest level of cell-phone use, about 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period, had a 40 percent higher risk for glioma, compared with those who used cell phones less frequently. One could reasonably expect that politicians would be toward the higher end of the cell-phone use spectrum, for example. Even so, that study, like many in this realm, was criticized for its limitations. For instance, the paper found an overall lower risk of glioma among all cell-phone users—a strange outcome that researchers chalked up to possible participation bias, which can happen when someone who has a disease is either more or less likely to enroll in the study that’s examining that disease. (If methodological issues skewed that correlation across the entire study cohort, skeptics argued, how could any of the study’s findings be taken seriously?)

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