Mobile Phone Use and Cancer Risk: Research on a Group 2B Carcinogen Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director Center for Family and Community Health UC Berkeley Prevention Research Center School of Public Health University of California, Berkeley CDC Webinar October 29, 2014


• • • •

Cell phone use in U.S. Electromagnetic radiation IARC RF working group Recent epidemiologic research on mobile phone use & brain cancer risk • Trends in brain cancer incidence


• European Environment Agency’s policy recommendations • U.S. wireless industry position • Various health agency positions • Precautionary principle • Federal government’s regulatory role • Evidence for other health risks

USA: Rapid growth in cell phone use 336 (est.) million connections

139 hours/year average voice use (23 minutes/day)

$189 billion annual revenue

CTIA: Dec. 2013

Demise of the landline

US Households* (Jul-Dec, 2013) ● 41.0% wireless-only ● 16.1% wireless-mostly NHIS. NCHS, CDC. Jul., 2014.

Adolescents’ cell phone use

2012: 78% of 12-17 year olds have cell phones 37% own smartphones (Pew Internet, 3/13/2013)

Children’s cell phone use

Electromagnetic radiation

Martin Blank. EMF and health risk: a scientific perspective.

IARC RF working group: Overview • IARC - WHO (2011) – “Gold standard” for carcinogenicity. – 31 member expert working group. – CDC representative (Christopher Portier).

• Research reviews – Carcinogenic mechanisms. – Epidemiologic studies.

IARC RF Working Group: Carcinogenic mechanisms

"Weak evidence" in humans • Evidence for genotoxicity: effects on immune function, gene and protein expression, cell signaling, oxidative stress, apoptosis, & blood-brain barrier.

IARC RF working group: Review of epidemiologic research “Limited evidence” in humans • Two case-control studies: Interphone, Hardell pooled. – susceptible to bias (e.g., recall error, participation bias). • Causal interpretation between mobile phone exposure and glioma is possible. Also acoustic neuroma, but not meningioma.

IARC RF working group: Official press release

PRESS RELEASE N° 208 31 May 2011 IARC CLASSIFIES RADIOFREQUENCY ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS AS POSSIBLY CARCINOGENIC TO HUMANS Lyon, France, May 31, 2011 ‐‐ The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.

IARC RF working group: Press conference • Jonathan Samet: "the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk." • Christopher Wild: "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting."

IARC classifies cell phones “possibly carcinogenic”

Interphone study • 13 nation case-control study. – World Health Org. & industry funded ($25 million).

• Overall pooled results for 3 brain tumors reported in 2010-2011. – Data collected from 2000-2004. – Acoustic neuroma (n = 1,105 cases), meningioma (n = 2,409) & glioma (n = 2,708). – Avg. lifetime cell phone use < 100 hours.

• Numerous shortcomings  bias. – Information bias & selection bias. – Attenuate tumor risk estimates.

Hardell Research Group • Based at a university hospital in Sweden. • Published series of case-control studies since 1999. • Higher quality research methods. – Excellent response rates (85% or more). – Assessed cordless phone use in addition to cell phone use.

Hardell & Interphone studies: ipsilateral results Hardell (2013)

Interphone (2010)


Glioma: overall




Glioma: ≥1640 hours




Acoustic neuroma: overall




Acoustic neuroma: ≥1640 hours




Source: Hardell & Carlberg. Table 1. Rev Environ Health. 28:97106. 2013.

CERENAT case-control study • France: 4 areas (2004-2006). • 253 gliomas, 194 meningiomas, 892 matched controls. • Cumulative call time ≥ 896 hours. – glioma OR = 2.89 (1.41, 5.93). – meningioma OR = 2.57 (1.02, 6.44).

Coureau et al. Occup. Environ. Med. 7:514-522. 2014.

Glioma risk consistency: 3 recent case-control studies Interphone (2010)

Interphone (App. 2) (2010)

Hardell (2013)

CERENAT (2014)

1640+ hours




2.89* (896+ hrs)

10+ years





Interphone: 2 tumor location studies • 7 European nations. – No significant association with glioma.

• 5 nations (Australia, Canada, France, Israel, New Zealand). – Significant association between radiation intensity & glioma. – Increased glioma risk after 7 years of cell phone use.

Hardell Research Group: New case-control studies (2013) • Wireless phone use ≥ 25 years (20072009). – Glioma: OR = 3.3 (95% CI: 1.6 – 6.9).

• Wireless phone use ≥ 20 yrs (1997-2003, 2007-2009). – Acoustic neuroma: OR = 4.4 (95% CI: 2.2 – 9.0).

Hardell et al. Int J Oncology. 43:1833-1845. 2013. Hardell et al. Int J Oncology. 43: 1036-1044. 2013.

Hardell Research Group: Glioma risk from wireless phone use

Hardell et al. Int J Oncology. 2013.

UK Million Women Study • UK hormone replacement cohort study 2005 – 2011 w/ 790,000 women. • Crude assessment of cell phone use. • Ignored cordless phone use. • 10+ yrs of cell phone use (vs. never use) – Glioma: RR = 0.78 (0.55 – 1.10). – Acoustic neuroma: RR = 2.46 (1.07 – 5.64). • Increased with duration of use Benson et al. Int J Epi. 2013.

Energy absorption by age

Gandhi et al., 2012

CEFALO: Children’s brain tumor risk • Case-control study – Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway (2004-2008). • Youth 7-19 years of age. – 352 cases, 646 controls.

• “Regular” cellphone use: OR = 1.36 (0.92-2.02). – 3 nations (OR’s = 1.49 to 1.73); Norway (OR = 0.51).

• Operator records: > 2.8 yrs cellphone use  OR = 2.14 (1.07-4.29). Aydin et al. J Natl Cancer Inst. 103:1264-1276. 2011.

Brain cancer incidence: trend data

• Difficult to interpret trend data. – Early phone use was light & not widespread. – Lag between exposure & tumor detection. – Diagnostic differences over time. – Incomplete & delayed reporting to registries. – Other factors may affect trend data.

Brain cancer incidence: increases over time • USA: frontal lobe cancers in men & women 20-29 years of age. (a) • USA: GBM in frontal & temporal lobe & cerebellum. (b) • Overall increases in Norway, Finland, England & Denmark. (a) Inskip et al (2010). (b) Zada et al. (2012).

Brain cancer incidence: Norway

Brain cancer incidence: Finland

Brain cancer incidence: England

Brain cancer incidence: Denmark • Period: 2001-2010. • 40% increase in brain tumors in males, 29% in females (age-stdized) (a) • Number males with glioblastoma nearly doubled (b)

(a) EMFacts Consultancy, Dec 15, 2011. (b) Microwave News, Nov 9, 2012.

European Environment Agency: Policy recommendations • Reduced cell phone radiation exposure, especially children & young adults. • Hands-free cell phone use & texting. • Cell phone warning labels. • Improved cell phone design. • More stringent radiation standards. • Government research funding.

Industry position: CTIA—The Wireless Association “The FCC, the FDA, the National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization have each evaluated the scientific research on wireless phones and each has found that the weight of the scientific research has not shown that wireless phone use causes any adverse health effects.” CTIA, May 27, 2012

FDA’s interpretation of Interphone Study

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, May 2010

Health agency positions • FCC: “currently no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.” • FDA: “The scientific evidence does not show a danger to any users of cell phones from RF exposure, including children and teenagers.” • NCI: “Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers …The only known biological effect of radiofrequency energy is heating.” • WHO: “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”

Proposed Cellphone “Right to Know” Language (City of Berkeley,10-28-14) "The Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. Don't carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is turned ON and connected to a wireless network. This will prevent exposure to RF levels that may exceed the federal guidelines." "Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for the recommended separation distance."

Alarmism vs. denialism–what about precaution?

Precautionary Principle “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Principle 15. Report of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992).

Federal government: RF Interagency Workgroup

Federal government position • Need to wait for conclusive evidence; however, the govt. makes a minimal investment in research. • “the overlap of federal agency responsibilities … leaves leadership unclear and encourages a pass-the-buck attitude.” (Cities of Boston & Philadelphia, 2013; • "the electromagnetic radiation standards used by the FCC continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today." (U.S. Dept. of Interior, 2014;

CDC: FAQs about Cell Phones & Your Health—June 9, 2014 • “Along with many organizations worldwide, we recommend caution in cell phone use.” • “Someday cellphones may be found to cause health problems we are not aware of at this time.” • “If RF does cause health problems, kids who use cell phones may have a higher chance of developing these problems in the future.”

CDC: FAQs about Cell Phones & Your Health—August 20, 2014 • “Some organizations recommend caution in cell phone use. More research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects.” • “At this time we do not have the science to link health problems to cell phone use.” • “It’s not known if cell phone use by children can cause health problems.”

Evidence of other health risks in humans from wireless phone use • Cancer: meningioma; parotid, pituitary & thyroid glands; breast. • Sperm damage & male infertility. • Reproductive effects on memory & ADHD. • Children: ADHD, headaches, hearing problems. (autism?) • Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. – Headaches, fatigue, tinnitus, skin symptoms.

What is the CDC’s role & responsibility in addressing this risk?

Contact information

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director Center for Family and Community School of Public Health University of California, Berkeley Supported by CDC Cooperative Agreement #U48DP001908 to UC Berkeley PRC (PI: Moskowitz). This presentation does not necessarily represent CDC’s official position.

References Tumor risk review papers • Myung et al (2009) Mobile phone use & risk of tumors: a metaanalysis. • Khurana et al (2009) Cell phones & brain tumors: a review including long-term epi data. • Levis et al (2011) Mobile phones & head tumours: the discrepancies in cause-effect relationships in the epi studies-how do they arise. • Levis et al. (2012) Mobile phones & head tumours: a critical analysis of case-control epi studies. • Hardell, Carlberg (2013) Using the Hill viewpoints from 1965 for evaluating strengths of evidence of the risk for brain tumors associated with use of mobile and cordless phones. Rev Environ Health.

References Tumor risk review papers • WHO (2013). IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 102: Non-ionizing radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.

References Tumor risk case-control studies • Interphone Study Group (2010) Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile phone use: results of the Interphone international casecontrol study. • Interphone Study Group (2011) Acoustic neuroma risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study. • Hardell et al (2013) Case-control study of the association between malignant brain tumours diagnosed between 2007 and 2009 and mobile and cordless phone use. • Hardell et al (2013) Pooled analysis of case-control studies on acoustic neuroma diagnosed 1997-2003 and 2007-2009 and use of mobile and cordless phones. • Aydin et al (2011) Mobile phone use & brain tumors in children & adolescents: a multi-center case-control study.

References Tumor risk case-control studies • Coureau et al (2014) Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study. Breast cancer case study • West et al (2013) Multifocal breast cancer in young women with prolonged contact between their breasts and their cellular phones. Brain tumor incidence trends • Inskip et al (2010) Brain cancer incidence trends in relation to cellular telephone use in the United States. • Zada et al (2012) Incidence trends in the anatomic location of primary malignant brain tumors in the United States: 1992-2006.

References Mechanisms • Juutilainen et al (2011) Review of possible modulation-dependent biological effects of radiofrequency fields. • Reudiger (2009) Genotoxic effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. • Behari (2010) Biological responses of mobile phone frequency exposure. • Kwon et al (2011) GSM mobile phone radiation suppresses brain glucose metabolism. • Volkow et al (2011) Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism. • Bin et al (2013) The alteration of spontaneous low frequency oscillations caused by acute electromagnetic fields exposure.

References Exposure • Kelsh et al (2010) Measured radiofrequency exposure during various mobile-phone use scenarios. • Gandhi et al (2012) Exposure limits: the underestimation of absorbed cell phone radiation, especially in children. Reproductive Health Effects • Adams et al (2014). Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. • LaVignera et al (2011) Effects of the exposure to mobile phones on male reproduction: a review of the literature. • Aldad et al (2012) Fetal radiofrequency radiation exposure from 8001900 Mhz-rated cellular telephones affects neurodevelopment and behavior in mice. • Divan et al (2012) Cell phone use and behavioural problems in young children.

Supplemental Slides

Genotoxic effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields Reudiger (2009) review – 101 animal & cellular studies • 49 found genotoxic effects, 9 found enhanced effects w/ toxic agents, 43 no effects found.

– Effects in cell structures, free radical formation, interaction w/ DNA-repair mechanisms. – Double-strand DNA breaks, stress proteins, blood-brain barrier penetration.

Israel: Parotid gland tumors triple over time

Source: Environmental Health Trust

Israel: Increase in parotid gland tumors (PGT) over 30 years

Source: Epidemiology 22(130). 2011.

Israel: PGT case-control study • Elevated risks for regular cell phone users & heavy users in rural areas. • For ipsilateral use, 49% increased risk for highest category of call time. • Positive dose-response trend.

Sadetzki et al. Amer J Epidemiol. 167 (4): 457-467. 2008.

Israel: Israeli Dental Association PGT warning • Young people should limit direct exposure of the head to microwave radiation from cell phones. • More than14 nations have issued precautionary health warnings to limit cell phone use.

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