Recent epidemiological study from Australia, on cell phones and brain cancer, made headline news: Chapman S, Azizi L, Luo Q, Sitas F. Has the incidence of brain cancer risen in Australia since the introduction of mobile phones 29 years ago? Cancer Epidemiology, 2016 May 4.
Reason for this global interest is simple, the authors claim to have proven that cell phones do not cause brain cancer and the issue should be put to rest. The study analyzed the 29 year history of cell phone use in Australia and compared it with the numbers of brain cancer reported to cancer registry.
However, I think the authors greatly overstated significance of their results leading to misinformation of the readers and the general public at large.
The title of the study is correct but it is also misleading. The 29 years since introduction of cell phones in Australia is a correct time-frame. However, the broad introduction of cell phones in Australia begun only after year 2000, after the saturation of the “market” reached 70 – 90% of the population, as shown in Figure 1 of the study.
The other problem is the latency period for brain cancer that Chapman and colleagues used for calculations – only 10 years (!). For brain cancer, a disease that we do not know how it is caused, we do not know what is the time-point when it begins and we do not know what is the period of time before it becomes symptomatic and can be diagnosed, it is not correct to use in calculations only 10-year latency period. It might be so short but, as well, it might be much longer. Tis is why predictive calculations made by Chapman et al for brain cancer trends with 10 years latency, should be extended to latencies of 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years. Also, the latency might be different for different causes of brain cancer.