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22 June 2016

Storyline vs. Rest-of-the-Story: Brain Cancer Incidence, Cellphone Use, and Trends Data

Storyline vs. Rest-of-the-Story:  Brain cancer incidence, cellphone use, and trends data
saferemr.com, 21 June 2016

Many countries monitor brain cancer incidence using cancer registries which document the number of new cases diagnosed each year. Although brain cancer is rare, about 25,000 cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year; the lifetime risk is between 1 in 200 and 1 in 250. Three case-control studies suggest that the risk may double after 10 years of heavy cellphone use. Only 35% of brain cancer patients survive for 5 or more years. Some scientists argue that brain cancer incidence has been stable over time so one need not worry about the findings from these controlled studies. However, the facts tell a different story.

A one-page fact sheet can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/braintrends2:
[Note:  We have reproduced the information in this fact sheet below, including the links.]


“the incidence of brain cancer in the United States has remained steady since 1992, despite the stark increase in cellphone use.” New York Times, May 28, 2016.

“a recently released Australian study found no increase in brain cancer rates since mobile phones became available there nearly three decades ago, and similar findings have been made in other countries.” HealthDay News, May 27, 2016.

“brain tumors have not increased in incidence in correlation with cellphone use. If cellphones were an
important cause of brain tumors, we would have seen an increase perhaps starting in the 1990s, when
cellphones came into widespread use, or starting several years later, if it took several years of cellphone use to cause a brain tumor.” Journal Report , Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2016.

“If cell phones play a role in increasing the risk of brain cancer, rates would be expected to increase. However, between 1987 and 2008, SEER data shows that despite the sharp increase in heavy cell phone use in the U.S., the overall age-adjusted incidence of brain cancer did not increase.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Oct.1, 2014.


Data quality issues:
Delay between cellphone use, tumor development and diagnosis:
Limited use of cellphones in early years:
Cordless phone use, a risk factor for brain cancer, preceded cellphone adoption:
Although authors may focus on the stability of overall brain cancer (glioma) incidence over time, data from ten nations show increases in specific subgroups or for specific types of tumors:
  • among all adults: Norway,   Finland.
  • among males: Australia,    South Korea,   England (in frontal & temporal lobes).
  • among females: Shanghai (China).  [page could not be found]
  • among young adults: USA,    Japan.
  • among adults over age 70: Australia,    New Zealand.
  • among all adults in temporal lobe:   England.
  • among all adults for glioblastoma (most serious & common brain cancer): Denmark, Netherlands.
  • among all adults for glioblastoma in frontal & temporal lobes: USA.

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