Last July, the first study of the risk of brain cancer associated with cellphone use among children and adolescents was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The study (http://tinyurl.com/44or532) concluded that,
“The absence of an exposure–response relationship either in terms of the amount of mobile phone use or by localization of the brain tumor argues against a causal association.”
Today, the Journal published Letters to the Editor (Correspondences) by highly respected scientists that refute this conclusion and makes it clear that the published findings, in contrast to the authors’ cryptic conclusion, indicates a serious risk of brain cancer associated with cellphone use.
These Letters to the Editor also pointed out multiple examples of contradictory data that implied that the peer review was inadequate
For example, using cellphone billing records (which do not rely on the children’s memory of their cellphone use) the study found a statistically significant 115% increased risk of brain cancer after more than 2.8 years since they first had a cellphone subscription. The study also reported to a 99.9% of confidence that the more the cellphone was used, the higher the risk of brain cancer (indicating a dose-response relationship).
One example of these contradictory data was: the reported percentages of children with billing records would mean that there should be 123 children with brain cancer (cases), and 200 children without brain cancer (controls). Yet the table that reported the number of cases and controls listed 196 cases and 360 controls. It is surprising that peer reviewers would not have noted this contradiction. Further, this study of childhood brain tumors did not include the most common of all childhood brain tumor types: pilocytic astrocytoma. Again, this points to inadequate peer review.
When the study was published, Dr. Joel Moskowitz, from the School of Public Health at the University of California—Berkeley commented,
“In my opinion, the interpretation of the results from this study and the accompanying editorial were biased in an attempt to reduce concerns that cell phone use increases brain tumor risk among children and adolescents.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Moskowitz, “They did report a number of significant associations between cell phone use, in terms of number of years of use, with brain tumor risk in children, and they try to dismiss those, as well.”
Dr. Sam Milham in his Correspondence writes,
“If, as the authors … conclude, mobile phone use is not associated with brain cancer in children …, there should be as many odds ratios greater than 1 as the number of odds ratios less than 1.
In table 2, all of the 13 calculated odds ratios are greater than 1.0. …”and goes on to show similarly skewed odds ratios in other tables.
Last December another highly respected group of researchers published a Commentary (http://www.ehjournal.net/content/10/1/106) in the journal Environmental Health. They stated,
“… in spite of low exposure, short latency period and limitations in study design, analyses and interpretation, there are nevertheless indications of increased risk in [the study].”
In summary this study provided evidence that children and adolescents have a substantial risk of brain cancer from cellphone use and that the time between first use and diagnosis of the cancer may be quite short.
L. Lloyd Morgan, Sr. Research Fellow
Devra Davis, Ph.D, MPH
Ronald B. Herberman, MD
Alasdair Philips, Founder Powerwatch UK
Lloyd Morgan, Berkeley California, USA (+510 841-4362, Lloyd.L.Morgan@gmail.com)
Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D. Director, Center for Family and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of California—Berkeley (+510 643-7314, email@example.com)
 Think about flipping a coin to determine if it is biased. Flip it13 times and always get heads, what would you conclude?