Study finds no link between phone masts and cancer

Wed, Jun 23, 2010, 01:00

A STUDY into whether children born to women living near mobile phone masts were more likely to develop cancers has found no connection between the two. The children experienced no additional risk of cancer, according to the large-scale UK study.

The Imperial College London research included almost 7,000 children and looked for any increase in childhood cancers in children born to mothers who were pregnant while living near mobile masts.

No link could be found, according to the research which was the first comprehensive study of its kind. It is published this morning on the British Medical Journal’s online service, bmj.com

Mobile phones are ubiquitous in Britain with 74 million connections in 2007 and four billion worldwide, the authors point out.

There have long been questions over possible health effects caused by the phones themselves, including brain and other cancers, they write.

“There have also been concerns about possible developmental and other health effects associated with exposures to mobile phone base stations [masts] and surveys of the general public indicate high levels of concern about the potential risk of living near mobile phone base stations,” they write.

The Imperial group undertook a large-scale study looking at cancers in children up to age five. They could find no connection between cancer incidence and the mother having lived near a base station during her pregnancy.

Earlier reports of apparent cancer clusters were “difficult to interpret” they said because of the small numbers involved and possible biases in the data.

The team measured distances away from mobile masts and the women’s exposures to electromagnetic radiation from them. They found the 1,397 children who developed cancers were no more likely to have a birth address near a mast than those who did not become ill.

Despite the result, consultant paediatric oncologist Dr Anne O’Mara of Our Lady’s hospital, Crumlin, said conclusions could not be drawn “At the moment we would say this is insufficiently strong data,” she said yesterday.

Retired Crumlin paediatric oncologist Dr Fin Breatnach agreed that it represented baseline data and more studies were required. “I am very reassured but I am not surprised.” There had been many studies about risks posed by masts and by mobile phone handsets and generally these had not highlighted any clear risks, he added.

“It [the study] was in line with other research that has been conducted in recent years,” said Tommy McCabe, director of the Irish Cellular Industry Association, a support body within Ibec that represents mobile phone companies.