Press release links rise in aggressive brain tumours to mobile phones, but study doesn't

May 4, 2018 by Katie Roberts, Cancer Research UK
Press release links rise in aggressive brain tumours to mobile phones, but study doesn’t
Credit: Cancer Research UK

Mobile phones hit headlines this morning because a press release linked an increase in brain tumour cases in England with the devices.

But this bold claim isn't backed up by the results of the study the press release was promoting to journalists, published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health.

What did the study do?

Researchers looked at the number of people with tumours in England, and calculated how this figure changed over time.

They used figures from the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) from 1995 to 2015.

Using this database, they looked for changes in the diagnosis of specific types of brain tumours, and where these tumours grow in the brain.

What did the study show?

They found that cases of an aggressive type of brain tumour called glioblastoma multiforme, found in the forehead and side regions of the brain, had risen sharply in recent years in England.

Cases of other types of brain tumour had remained consistent or fallen since 1995.

What do the results mean?

The researchers showed that there has been a rise in people diagnosed with this specific type of brain tumour in England.

What they didn't find is a cause for this increase. They couldn't, because the study wasn't set up to answer this question.

There are lots of factors that could explain the increase in this type of brain tumour, including improvements in diagnosis and changes in the way brain tumours are classified. But it's impossible to know for sure without more information and studies designed to find these answers. Until then, all we have are (hopefully) educated guesses.

That's where mobile phones came in.

Mobile use was discussed in the paper as one of the factors that could explain the increase. But the took it a step further, singling out excessive use as a 'likely cause'.

As scientists speaking to Science Media Centre explain, this is not backed up by the study itself. "This paper does not attempt to link the rise in mobile phone use with a rise in brain incidence directly," says Dr. Lion Shahab, a senior lecturer in epidemiology and at University College London.

And Professor Malcolm Sperrin, director of the Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, warned people to "not stretch the data too far" as there are other factors that could explain the results.

The big picture

As it stands, there isn't any conclusive evidence that links mobile phone use to . But there also isn't enough evidence to say that absolutely no risk exists.

We've summed up the most important findings before, and the take-home message is that while using a mobile phone is unlikely to cause cancer, scientists need more long-term data to be sure.

But one thing is clear: despite the headlines, the latest study doesn't add all that much to the mobile debate.

Explore further: A better understanding of brain tumour biology will bring new treatments

More information: Brain tumours: rise in Glioblastoma Multiforme incidence in England 1995–2015 suggests an adverse environmental or lifestyle factor. Journal of Environmental and Public Health www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/aip/7910754/

Related Stories

A better understanding of brain tumour biology will bring new treatments

May 2, 2018
Our brains are home to a staggering 86 billion or so cells that are carefully woven into the structure that lets us think, feel and live.

Mobile phones not causing increase in brain tumors, according to new study

March 2, 2015
The risk of brain tumours has not changed significantly with increased mobile phone use, according to new research from the University of Auckland.

3D printing brain tumours to improve treatment

May 25, 2016
Scientists at a Heriot-Watt University plan to 3D print tumour-like constructs to better understand the biology of malignant brain tumours that kill around 5,000 people each year in the UK.

Brain tumors share common tricks to survive

October 25, 2017
Different types of brain tumours may use strikingly similar approaches to generate and use energy to survive in the brain, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE today.

Brain tumor characteristics could help predict survival in people over 70

November 7, 2016
Characteristics like seizures, location of the tumour, and pressure in the brain, give insight into length of survival and treatment options for brain tumour patients over the age of 70, according to new research presented ...

No increase in brain tumours in the Nordic countries

January 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The incidence of glioma - the most common form of brain tumour - is not increasing in the Nordic countries, contradicting the claim that mobile phone use is a cause of the disease. This according to a ...

Recommended for you

Downward-facing mouse: Stretching reduces tumor growth in mouse model of breast cancer

May 22, 2018
Many cancer patients seek out gentle, movement-based stretching techniques such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, but does stretching have an effect on cancer? While many animal studies have attempted to quantify the effects of ...

Resetting the epigenetic balance for cancer therapy

May 22, 2018
Though mutations in a gene called MLL3 are common across many types of cancers, their relationship to the development of the disease has been unclear. Now, a Northwestern Medicine study has identified an epigenetic imbalance ...

Compound in citrus oil could reduce dry mouth in head, neck cancer patients

May 21, 2018
A compound found in citrus oils could help alleviate dry mouth caused by radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Ice cream funds research showing new strategy against thyroid cancer

May 21, 2018
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is almost uniformly fatal, with an average lifespan of about 5 months after diagnosis. And standard treatment for the condition includes 7 weeks of radiation, often along with chemotherapy.

Bladder cancer model could pave the way for better drug efficacy studies

May 21, 2018
Understanding that not all bladder cancers are the same, researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have created a tool that may help them to uncover why only a fraction of patients ...

Breath test breakthrough for early diagnosis of oesophageal and gastric cancer

May 18, 2018
A breath test can successfully detect oesophageal and gastric cancer and could be used as a first-line test for patients, say researchers.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VOR_
not rated yet May 04, 2018
Money concerns seem to be good and critiquing our quality of meta-cognition. Now if we could only get everyone to train themselves in methods needed to criticize meta-cognition, including criticism of the biases of money concerns, we'd obviously reduce our biases in general.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.