August 2002

New Swedish study on brain tumours and phones

In "What's New" of July 2001 we noted preliminary results from a new study by Hardell and colleagues. This case-control study has now been published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Patients with brain tumour from several regions of Sweden were compared with controls with regard to various exposures, including cell and cordless phones. A total of 1,303 matched pairs were used in the analysis of the results. There was an increased risk with the use of analogue phones (OR 1.3). Although there was no overall increased risk of brain tumours with digital or cordless phones, several sub-analyses did show an increased risk with these phones. For instance, there was an increased risk of temporal lobe tumours in those who had used cordless phones for more than 5 years, and there was also an increased risk of tumours on the same side as phone use (for both digital and cordless phones). This latter finding was true not only for tumours in the temporal area but also in other areas of the brain.

This is the first study to suggest an increased risk from cordless phones. Other researchers have not confirmed results from this study. More details can be found in "Research -Epidemiology".

Reference: Hardell L, Hallquist A, Mild KH, Carlberg M, et al. Cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for brain tumours. Eur J Cancer Prev 2002;11:377-386

NRPB plans review of EMF science

The UK National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) is reviewing the scientific basis for its exposure guidelines for electromagnetic fields from 0 Hz to 300 GHz. The Board plans to do a comprehensive review of the areas of biology, epidemiology, and dosimetry. The precautionary approach will be considered where information may be lacking. An initial report is anticipated later this year.

Leukaemia near Vatican Radio station

A recent study examined the adult mortality and childhood incidence rates of leukaemia within a 10-km radius of the transmitters of the Vatican Radio station. The transmitters range in power from 5 to 600 kW, and the frequencies from 4.005-21.85 MHz for short waves and 0.527-1.611 MHz for long waves. Data on leukaemia were collected over the period 1987 to 1998 for adult cases and for one year longer for childhood cases. The risk of childhood leukaemia was higher than expected for the distance up to 6 km from the radio station, and there was a significant decline in risk with increasing distance both for male mortality and childhood leukaemia.

The authors point out that the study has limitations because of the small number of cases and the lack of exposure data. This has been true of other similar studies of radio and television transmitters. For more see "Research - -Epidemiology".

Reference: Michelozzi P, Capon A, Kirchmayer U, Forastiere F, et al. (2002): Adult and childhood leukemia near a high-power radio station in Rome, Italy. Amer J Epidemiol 155:1096-1103.

ICNIRP explains approach to protection against non-ionizing radiation

The International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has produced a document explaining its approach in providing advice on protection against non-ionizing radiation exposure. The document outlines ICNIRP's role, its approach to health risk assessment, and the principles it follows in developing guidance on limiting exposure.

Reference: The International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) (2002): General approach to protection against non-ionizing radiation. Health Physics 82:540-548.

The document can be read at

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