Cell phone use does not appear to increase the risk of brain tumors — overall, by subtype, or by tumor location — according to a prospective study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Researchers examined a large cohort of women in the United Kingdom with 14 years of follow-up. The findings showed no increased risk of any brain tumors or the main malignant subtypes (glioma and glioblastoma) in cell phone users.

Between 1996 and 2001, researchers recruited 1.3 million women born between 1935 and 1950. Participants were asked questions on cell phone use first in median year 2001 and again in median year 2011. 


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There were 776,156 women who completed the 2001 questionnaire. At that time, 286,387 participants had never used a cell phone, 489,769 had used a cell phone, and 66,362 used a cell phone daily.

In the 2011 questionnaire, 45.8% of participants who were never-users in 2001 reported talking on a cell phone for at least 1 minute per week. These participants said they had used a cell phone for a mean of 4.3 years.

During the 14 years of follow-up, 3268 incident brain tumors were identified. The adjusted relative risk of all brain tumors for participants who ever used a cell phone vs never-users was 0.97 (95% CI, 0.90 to 1.04). 

The relative risk for right-side tumors was 1.15 (95% CI, 0.94 to 1.40), and the relative risk for left-side tumors was 1.05 (95% CI, 0.85 to 1.29).

The relative risks for ever-users vs never-users by tumor type were:

  • Glioma, 0.89 (95% CI, 0.80 to 0.99)
  • Glioblastoma, 0.93 (95% CI, 0.82 to 1.06)
  • Meningioma, 1.01 (95% CI, 0.87 to 1.17)
  • Pituitary tumors, 0.94 (95% CI, 0.73 to 1.21)
  • Acoustic neuroma, 1.19 (95% CI, 0.89 to 1.59). 

There was no “increased risk of brain tumors or of any brain tumor subtype in cellular telephone users of at least 10 years or for temporal and parietal lobe tumors, which are the most exposed parts of the brain,” the researchers wrote.

“This finding supports the accumulating evidence that cellular telephone use under usual conditions does not increase brain tumor risk,” they added. “Future research should target specifically the very heavy cellular telephone users, with attention to new features of a continuously evolving technology; hence, advising cellular telephone users on how to reduce unnecessary exposures remains a good precautionary approach.” 

Reference

Schuz J, Pirie K, Reeves GK, et al. Cellular telephone use and the risk of brain tumors: Update of the UK Million Women Study. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online March 29, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djac042

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor