Garry Knight/Flickr

30-year study turns up no link between mobile phones and cancer

Phew.

DAVID NIELD
6 MAY 2016
 

For many of us born in the last 30 years, it's hard to imagine life without a smartphone, but these gadgets are still relatively new, and scientists are continuing to gathering data on their long-term mental and physical effects.

Now the results of a new Australian study shows no correlation whatsoever between cellphone use and cases of cancer. The researchers behind the study looked at three decades of data, gathered between 1982 and 2013, and mapped phone use against brain cancer rates.

It will take more than a single study to settle the question of how healthy or unhealthy smartphones are, of course, but it's a significant piece of evidence to consider.

 

As Chris Mills from Gizmodo reports, a slight increase in cancer rates in males was noted in the study, but there was no noticeable difference in females, and overall the data matches up with an earlier study on the same issue carried out in Scandinavia.

What makes the Australian report even more useful is that all diagnosed cases of cancer in the country have to be recorded by law.

"We found no increase in brain cancer incidence compatible with the steep increase in mobile phone use," reported the researchers in Cancer Epidemiology.

While a rise in cancer rates was noted in those aged 70 to 84 over the time period in question, it began before mobile phones were in use, and the researchers think the jump is down to better diagnosis and cancer detection techniques in recent years.

In total, the records of some 19,858 men and 14,222 women were examined. If you're interested in the rise of the smartphone – or just raw statistics in general – you might like to know that cellphone use in Australia started in 1987 and has risen to over 90 percent in the last 29 years.

 

As lead researcher Simon Chapman notes at The Conversation, the long time period covered means we can be more confident that there isn't a 'lag period' between an increase in smartphone usage and an increase in cancer rates – if there was, we'd already be starting to see signs of it.

But with so many variables and influences on our lifestyles to consider, more research is needed to fully understand what these little gadgets are doing to our bodies and our minds.

Chapman and his colleagues also tested their data against two separate studies (from 2011 and 2015) that had pointed to links between smartphone use and an increased risk of cancer. In neither case did the predicted rise in cancer rates proposed by those two studies show up in the data collected in Australia over three decades.

So it seems we're safe for the time being – though there's no harm in going hands-free when you can, just in case...

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