Lies, damned lies and mobile phone studies

Regular visitors to our website will know that, in the world of mobile phone research, things are not always what they seem. A new study on brain cancer risk from mobiles released today proves the point again.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study of several hundred thousand Danes concludes that mobile phone use does not raise the risk of getting a brain tumour.

But scientists have dismissed the study as seriously flawed and offering false reassurance.

Even the study’s own research team have admitted it’s flawed. The report itself states that “a limitation of the study is potential misclassification of exposure…Subscription holders who are not using their phone will erroneously be classified as exposed and people without a subscription but still using a mobile phone will erroneously be classified as unexposed.”

Dr Denis Henshaw, Emeritus Professor of Human Radiation Effects at the University of Bristol, calls its findings “worthless”. He says that “this seriously flawed study misleads the public and decision makers about the safety of mobile phone use.”

Epidemiologist Dr Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust in the US says the ‘new’ study is only an extension of one already published by the Danish team two years ago. Not only was it widely criticised at the time, but it was rejected by the World Health Organization as unreliable when they did a review of studies in May. The WHO panel decided almost unanimously to classify mobile radiation as ‘possibly carcinogenic’.

The study purported to analyse long term use of mobiles when in fact the minimum period of use was only one year. It also excluded business users from the users group, who were by far the heaviest users in the early days of mobile use and also excluded those who started their phone subscription after 1995, plausibly a very significant proportion. This created a potentially huge distortion in the results by inflating the apparent risk of non-users and reducing that of users.

Studies that don’t find a link generally get lots of media attention and we imagine this one will too, despite its own research team acknowledging it’s flawed.

You can read more details about the study on the Powerwatch site.

 

 

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