Meta-Analyses and Studies After INTERPHONE

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A case-control study that included 2760 patients from the Swedish Inpatient Register diagnosed with brain tumors (glioma, astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and other/mixed gliomas) between 1997 and 2003 or 2007 to 2009 and population-based matched controls.15Mobile phone use overall significantly increased the risk for any glioma (OR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.1-1.6), particularly for ipsilateral tumors (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.4-2.2) but not contralateral tumors (OR, 1.1; 95% CI, 0.8-1.4). The risk was highest in the 18- to 39-year age group. Similar results were found with cordless phone use.

A meta-analysis published in 2017 that included 4 studies applied the Bradford Hill Viewpoints when analyzing the relevance of the results. Mobile phone users included those who used cordless phones.16Studies were reanalyzed such that the categories for exposure and age were the same as those used in the INTERPHONE study. Overall, high cumulative use of mobile phones (≥ 896 or 1640 hours) significantly increased the risk for glioma (OR, 1.90; 95% CI, 1.31-2.76) for ipsilateral tumors (OR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.06-1.84) but not contralateral tumors (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.74-1.41) compared with non-regular users. Each of the 4 studies independently showed an increased risk.

Across the studies, longer duration of use resulted in a higher OR. One study reported a greater than 20-year latency of mobile phone use, which increased the risk of glioma with an OR of 2.01 (95% CI, 1.41-2.88). Several studies showed that high mobile phone use significantly increased the risk of glioma within the temporal lobe, which is where the majority of the EMF is absorbed with ORs ranging from 1.87 to 3.94, depending on the study. Risk also differed by the type of mobile phone used, with digital (UMTS, 3G) conferring the greatest risk for ipsilateral tumors (OR, 3.27; 95% CI, 1.21-8.83) followed by analogue (OR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.15-2.47) and digital (2G; OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.09-1.96).

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Another meta-analysis published in 2017 that included 6028 cases and 11,488 controls from 11 studies showed similar outcomes.17Mobile phone use for at least 10 years significantly increased the risk for glioma (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.08-1.91), particularly for ipsilateral tumors (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.12-1.92); there was no association with contralateral tumors. Though low-grade gliomas were associated with mobile phone use (OR, 2.22; 95% CI, 1.69-2.92), high-grade gliomas were not (OR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.72-0.92).

A 2017 meta-analysis, which included 26,846 cases of intracranial and salivary gland tumors and 50,013 controls from 24 studies, found no association between overall mobile phone use and intracranial tumors, brain tumors, glioma, meningioma, and acoustic neuroma.18However, there was a significant increase in the risk of intracranial tumors when the analysis only included mobile phone use of at least 10 years (OR, 1.46; 95 %CI, 1.07-1.98), at least 10 years from the time of first regular use (OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.04-1.52), and ipsilateral tumor location (OR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.06-1.57).

Other Cancers

A meta-analysis of 5087 cases from 3 case-control studies demonstrated that mobile phone use increases the risk of parotid gland tumors (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.09-1.51).19A systematic review that included 392,119 patients from 6 studies reported little evidence for negative effects of mobile phone use on skin, including rates of basal cell carcinoma.20


Though controversy exists regarding the interpretation of data from major studies, the evidence from multiple case-control studies and meta-analyses suggests that mobile phone use of at least 10 years — or with high cumulative exposure — may increase the risk of glioma ipsilateral to the preferred side of phone use compared with individuals who are not regular users. Large, prospective, ongoing studies are necessary for better quality data.


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