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Risk of brain cancer from exposure to radiofrequency fields in childhood and adolescence

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Mobile phone use and childhood brain cancer

The increasing use of mobile phones has alerted healthcare professionals about the potential health impact, especially on the central nervous system (CNS). A European epidemiological study analysed the risk associated with brain tumour development.

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Mobile phones emit radiofrequency (RF) and extremely low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that could be absorbed by the brain and the CNS. Especially, the developing nervous system of children and adolescents could be more sensitive to the effects of RF. In addition, this population is more likely to have greater lifetime cumulative exposures to RF from mobile phones than those who started use later in life. Previous studies had suggested an increased risk of glioma in the most exposed area of the brain among long-term and heavy users of mobile phones. Assessing the potential impact on tumour brain development is paramount for taking appropriate measures to protect the population. The primary objective of the EU-funded MOBI-KIDS (Risk of brain cancer from exposure to radiofrequency fields in childhood and adolescence) project was to assess the carcinogenic effects of exposure to RF from mobile telephones in childhood and adolescence. In this context, partners conducted a multinational epidemiological case control study of brain tumours diagnosed in young people in relation to EMF exposure from mobile phones in 14 countries. Scientists developed and validated improved algorithms to estimate RF and ELF exposure from mobile communication devices. Nearly 900 eligible cases aged 10 to 24 years old were recruited alongside 1 912 age-matched controls who provided information on mobile phone use, exposure to ionising radiation and chemicals, as well medical radiation exposure. Participants undertook oral interviews to overcome the uncertainties encountered in questionnaire-based answers used in previous studies. Cases comprised both benign and malignant brain tumours that originated in areas of the brain with high exposure to RF and ELF. There were no significant differences among cases and controls in the time since start of mobile phone use, number of calls made per day or call duration per month. MOBI-KIDS constitutes the largest epidemiological study on the effects of EMF exposure on brain tumour risk in young people. The findings emphasise the need for improved assessment of the potential adverse effects in the CNS. The outcomes of the study will likely receive a considerable degree of public attention and could have significant societal implications.


Mobile phone, childhood, brain cancer, central nervous system, electromagnetic fields, MOBI-KIDS

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