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Scientists Link Eye Cancer to Mobile Phones
THE SUNDAY TIMES: NEWS, January 14
by Jonathan Leake,
MOBILE phones have been linked to human cancer in
a scientific study for the first time. The research suggests there is a
threefold increase in eye cancers among people who regularly use the
devices. The results will cause concern within the mobile telecoms
The radiation emitted from mobile phones has long
been known temporarily to alter the workings of brain cells but there
was previously no evidence of permanent damage to health.
If confirmed by subsequent research, the finding
could lead to thousands of costly lawsuits by people with eye and
possibly brain cancers.
More than 20 million people in Britain have mobile
The research, published in the journal
Epidemiology, was carried out by a team from the University of Essen,
in Germany. It investigated a form of eye cancer called uveal melanoma,
in which tumours form in the layer that makes up the iris and base of
Dr Andreas Stang, who led the research, said he
had examined 118 people with uveal melanoma and obtained details about
their use of digital mobile phones. This was compared with a control
group of 475 people without the disease.
To prevent bias, the researchers were not told if
the person theywere examining suffered from cancer or was healthy. When
the results were analysed they found the cancer victims had a much
higher rate of mobile phone use, though Stang cautions that his study
The mechanism by which the radiation might cause
cancer is uncertain but it is known that the watery contents of the eye
assists the absorption of radiation. Other research showed that cells
called melanocytes found in the uveal layer started growing and
dividing more rapidly when exposed to microwave radiation.
Since uveal melanoma starts within such cells,
there is a ready-made mechanism by which mobile phone radiation might
help to initiate cancer, especially in people with a genetic
predisposition to the condition.
Last year the Stewart inquiry into mobile phone
safety, appointed by the government, found no evidence to link the
devices with brain tumours or any other disorder. However, last month
saw the launch of multi-billion-pound lawsuits against Verizon Horizon,
an American mobile phone company 45% owned by Vodaphone, the biggest
British provider. Customers claim they got brain tumours and other
conditions from using the devices.
Vodaphone said it welcomed new research but there
was still no positive evidence that mobile phones harmed health.
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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