Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cell Phones and Brain Cancer

Here's a null study more interesting for the acknowledgements than the study itself. This cell phone deal won't die because it's a yuppie exposure; true, other people are exposed as well, but this is one of the few environmental issues where money tox for the exposed people.

The fear of association of brain cancer with electrical phenomena metaphors "brain waves" into a biologically implausible connection. Yes, nerve cells operate by conducting a membrane based impulse down the axon, yes, the electrical activity can be measured, and yes, brain and nervous system activity are disrupted by electric shock. Measurable electrical potentials are generated by lots of cells, especially muscles like the heart. But CNS tumors have little to do with the neurons, which basically don't divide and grow. CNS tumors arise from glial cells which wrap around the neurons and nurture the neurons. Another class of CNS tumors, meningiomas, arise from the membrane wrapping the CNS.

It's certainly reasonable to wonder whether sticking a radio transmitter on the side of your head might carry some biological effect. But if the Dodger were investigating this, the first step would be measuring the exposure. Maybe this has been done.

Anyway, a paraphrased abstract of the study notes The authors ascertained all incident cases of glioma and meningioma diagnosed in Denmark for two years, 252 persons with glioma and 175 persons with meningioma. Use of cellular telephone was associated with a low risk for high-grade glioma (OR, 0.58) The risk estimates were closer to unity for low-grade glioma (1.08) and meningioma (1.00).

More intersting is the acknowledgement section. The International Epidemiology Institute is a private consulting group in a modest office building in Rockville; where IEI gets the money to "sponsor" studies mystifies the Dodger. Rare are the sudies published by the IEI investigators which find an environmental or occupational cause of cancer. The rest seems to be paid for by the cell phone industry.

NEUROLOGY 2005;64:1189-1195

Cellular telephones and risk for brain tumors

A population-based, incident case-control study

H. Collatz Christensen, MD, J. Schüz, PhD, M. Kosteljanetz, DMSc, MD, H. Skovgaard Poulsen, DMSc, MD, J. D. Boice, Jr, ScD, J. K. McLaughlin, PhD and C. Johansen, PhD, DMSc, MD
From the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology (Drs. Collatz Christensen and Johansen), The Danish Cancer Society, Denmark; Institute for Medical Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics (Dr. Schüz), University of Mainz, Germany; Neurosurgical Department (Dr. Kosteljanetz) and Oncological Department (Dr. Skovgaard Poulsen), University Hospital of Copenhagen, Denmark; and International Epidemiology Institute (Drs. Boice and McLaughlin), Rockville, MD.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. H. Collatz Christensen, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society, Strandboulevarden 49, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark; e-mail: hcollatz@dadlnet.dk

Supported by the European Commission Fifth Framework Program—Quality of life and management of living resources (Contract QLK4-CT1999–01563), a grant from Union Internationale Contre le Cancer (UICC) (RCA/01/08), a grant from the International Epidemiology Institute, Rockville, MD, and the Danish Cancer Society. The UICC received funds for this purpose from the Mobile Manufacturers' Forum and the GSM Association.

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