1 Jun 2011

More research on mobile phone cancer link urged

5:57 pm on 1 June 2011

A New Zealand researcher says new World Health Organisation (WHO) findings on possible links between cellphone use and cancer should spur the industry into conducting further studies.

The organisation says a review of all the available scientific evidence suggests cellphone use should be classified as "possibly carcinogenic".

It is warning that people should consider ways of reducing their exposure, such as texting more and using headsets.

The head of population health at the University of Auckland, Professor Alistair Woodward, told Nine to Noon he believes the research is a fair assessment.

He says the findings should put the onus on regulators and industry to do more research about the risks.

The Ministry of Health says it is continuing to recommend that people who are concerned about the risks of exposure to radio frequency fields take steps to reduce exposure-such as using hands free-kits.

However, it has ruled out mandatory labelling on cellphones and will not be changing its guidelines.

Senior science adviser Martin Gledhill says there is nothing new in the organisation's findings and further research is needed to draw more certain conclusions.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen says he will wait until research shows a definite link between cancer and cellphones before encouraging people to change their behaviour.

The Cancer Society says it is good for people to be aware of the possible risks, but it is important that they do not panic. It says the findings are not significantly different from what is already known and there is still no clear evidence one way or another.

World Health Organisation findings

A working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries meeting at the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said a review of all the available scientific evidence suggested mobile phone use should be classified as "possibly carcinogenic".

The classification could prompt the UN health body to look again at its guidelines on mobile phones, the IARC scientists said, but more research is needed before a more definitive answer on any link can be given.

The World Health Organisation had previously said there was no established evidence for a link between mobile phone use and cancer.

IARC chairman Jonathan Samet said the working group classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

He said some evidence suggested a link between an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain cancer, and mobile phone use.

A study published last year which looked at almost 13,000 cellphone users over 10 years found no clear answer on whether the mobile devices cause brain tumours.

Use of mobile phones use has increased dramatically since their introduction in the early-to-mid 1980s. About 5 billion mobile phones are currently in use worldwide.