Mobile Phone Use and Risk of Brain Tumors: New Findings from International Study


A comprehensive international research study called COSMOS, led by Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and Imperial College London, has examined over 250,000 mobile phone users to explore whether prolonged and extensive mobile phone use is associated with a higher risk of brain tumors. The findings of the study, published in Environment International, reveal no significant link between mobile phone usage and the occurrence of brain tumors.

The widespread adoption of mobile phones and wireless technologies has raised concerns regarding the potential health risks posed by radio frequency electromagnetic radiation emitted by these devices. In response to these concerns, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) have called for high-quality studies to address these issues. In light of this, the COSMOS study was launched nearly two decades ago.

Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study for the first time, gathering detailed information on participants’ mobile phone habits. The results indicate that individuals who spend more time talking on their mobile phones do not face a higher risk of developing brain tumors compared to others. Maria Feychting, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet and the leader of the COSMOS study on cancer risk, highlighted these findings.

From 2007 to 2013, individuals in five countries provided in-depth information about their mobile phone usage. Subsequently, the participants were monitored through cancer registries to track any new cases of brain tumors.

The study found no significant difference in the occurrence of brain tumors among the top 10% of participants who spent the most hours talking on mobile phones compared to those who used their phones less frequently. Moreover, individuals who began using mobile phones more than 15 years earlier did not exhibit a higher risk of developing brain tumors than those with a shorter history of mobile phone use.

Previous studies encountered methodological challenges that hindered definitive conclusions, with some investigations suggesting a correlation between mobile phone use and brain tumor incidence. These studies often involved contacting individuals with existing brain tumors (cases) and healthy individuals (controls), potentially leading to recall bias where patients may overestimate their past mobile phone use.

Unlike previous studies, COSMOS enrolled participants free of nervous system tumors at the study’s commencement, minimizing the impact of the disease on participants’ recollection of mobile phone use. By combining a prospective cohort approach with detailed mobile phone usage data, COSMOS stands out as the only study to provide comprehensive insights into the potential association between mobile phone use and brain tumors.

While some research has classified radiofrequency fields as possibly carcinogenic, based largely on retrospective case-control studies, the COSMOS findings contribute valuable evidence for future health risk evaluations. The researchers emphasize the need for further research to address the constantly evolving mobile phone technology and the rarity of some of the tumors investigated.

Maria Feychting underlined the ongoing significance of the COSMOS study in assessing potential long-term risks associated with mobile phone use. By continuing to monitor study participants, the researchers aim to establish more definitive conclusions on any potential health implications in the future.

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