Prof. Lawrie Challis laid out for RCR Wireless News the path forward for the next phase of scientific investigation by the independent Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research program. Challis offered his views and outlook in response to questions e-mailed by RCR Wireless News.
“MTHR1 has found no evidence of health effects for users of less than 10 years-consistent with work elsewhere. However, most cancers cannot be detected until more than 10 years after the causal event. This is not usually known, but we know that a big increase in lung cancer occurred around 15 years after the big increase in smoking that started during the First World War. Another big causal event was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was followed by an increase in cancers many years later-appreciably more than 10 years. In both of these cases, and others, there was no evidence in the first 10 years that an increase in cancer rate was going to occur later. So the observation that there is no increased risk with phone usage of brain cancer and acoustic neuroma for people who have used phones for less than 10 years does not tell us what will happen in the future. The only responsible thing to do is to monitor the health of a large number of people and wait. One determines their phones usage in the future and also asks how much they used in the past. The Schoemaker paper (acoustic neuroma) and recent Lahkola et al paper (glioma) both show hints of increased risk for users of more than 10 years. These are only hints. They could easily be due to chance or to bias, but they provide further reasons why we need to follow this up if we want to know if an increased risk will show up in the future. I stress, though, we have no evidence at all that it will and no mechanism that suggests it will.
The reason for studying children is that they are more sensitive to many other insults (pollutants such as lead, ultra-violet, ionizing radiation). One cannot rule out the possibility, therefore, that they might be more sensitive to RF than adults. Very little has been done on children for ethical and other reasons; they are big users and have a lifetime’s use ahead. Both the cohort study and work on children are at the top of the WHO [World Health Organization] research agenda.”


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