Confused by Media Coverage of the Interphone Brain Tumor Study?

By Camilla Rees, ElectromagneticHealth.org

WATCH THE NEW VIDEO by ElectromagneticHealth.org: “Interphone Study Design Flaws” with L. Lloyd Morgan, B.Sc., lead author of the report last August “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone“(http://snurl.com/wphyt) and of the recently published Counter-View of the Interphone Study (http://snurl.com/wey8p)


Interphone Study Design Flaws from ElectromagneticHealth.Org on Vimeo.

Since publication last week of partial results of the long-awaited 13-country Interphone study in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the public has become confused by seemingly conflicting media coverage on the risk of brain tumors from cell phones, and the seemingly conflicting published results about the study in different places in the same journal.

The journal article, “Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the Interphone international case control study” said ‘overall’ no increased risk of brain tumors was found, but what many media stories omitted to mention was that RISK WAS FOUND in the ‘heaviest user’ group after 10 years of cell phone use, which at the time of the study meant cell phone usage of about 2 hours a month. Those who used the phone according to this definition of ‘heavy user’ had a doubled risk of glioma—an often fatal brain tumor.

Given the increased risk of brain cancer found, many scientists, physicians and health advocates believe it was irresponsible for news sources to have reported that Interphone results showed ‘no risk’ of brain cancer or that the results were ‘inconclusive’.

Even the director of the Interphone study, Elisabeth Cardis, PhD, has stated, “We have a number of elements in the study which suggest there might actually be a risk, and particularly we have seen an increased risk of glioma, which is one type of malignant brain tumor, in the heaviest users in the study—in particular on the side of the head where the tumor developed and in particular in the temporal lobe which is the part of the brain closest to the ear, so closest to where the phone is held…”

The finding of doubled risk of glioma after 10 years of ‘heavy’ use is of serious concern for two reasons:

1) Latency periods in tumors can be upwards of 10 years (even up to 40 years in the case of radiation from Hiroshima) so it is of concern that a statistically significant risk of brain cancer showed up at all after 10 years in the Interphone study; and

2) People use cell phones today for much longer than the usage that produced a statistically significant increased risk of brain cancer in the Interphone study. If an increased risk of glioma was found in users speaking on the cell phone for two to two and a half hours a month, what does the risk of glioma become when one uses the cell phone for two and a half hours a week—or even two and a half hours a day?

Current users need to be made aware of the findings of brain tumors in the Interphone study among ‘heavy’ users. An extremely light user today might use the cell phone for two hours a month (a ‘heavy user’ at the time of the Interphone study), while many others use the cell phone for much of the day, making risk of brain tumor potentially far, far greater, and also of enormous unknown risk to children.

If science is being conducted for the purpose of supporting public health, then we must keep the focus on what the science is telling us that is of relevance to the public’s health instead of misleading the public that things look safe when they are not safe. When we know from the Interphone study there is significant risk of brain cancer after 10 years, and at usage levels way lower than typical cell phone usage today, the public needs to be warned of the brain tumor risks.

Additionally, many news sources ignored the design flaws of the Interphone study, documented last August by the International EMF Collaborative in “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern”(http://snurl.com/wphyt). The Interphone study has 11 serious design flaws. The results were so skewed, in fact, by these eleven flaws, that the study results showed an incredulous ‘protective’ effect from cell phone use before 10 years. Even many of the Interphone researchers themselves agree a protective effect is simply not plausible and that the study is underestimating risk.

The total impact of each of these flaws will be spelled out in detail in a presentation by L. Loyd Morgan, B.Sc. this June at the Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting in Korea. It is expected the skew will be much higher than what Interphone researchers acknowledge may be due to one design flaw, called ‘selection bias’.

What is important to understand is that some of these eleven design flaws are so egregious they render the recently reported results from the Interphone study almost a total sham. How can the researchers have not included portable phone users in the ‘exposed’ category when they are exposed to the same radiation as cell phone users? Doing so grossly underestimates risk of brain tumors by comparing one exposed group to another exposed group. And they call a “regular user” someone who has used a cell phone once a week for six months, once again assuring that any discovery of brain tumor risk will be greatly underestimated. We should expect more of science, especially science paid for in part with public funds.

Electromagnetic Health’s New Video “Interphone Study Design Flaws” spells out these eleven design flaws underestimating risk of Brain Tumors. (http://vimeo.com/8109152 Listen to L. Lloyd Morgan in this 8:18 minute video and decide for yourself whether the public’s interest has been served by the Interphone study design.

Please also note that two Appendices in the International Journal of Epidemiology show very different results than those published in the article, “Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the Interphone international case control study”. How is it that in the very same journal results from the same study can appear so different? Appendix 1 shows a 84% increased risk of meningioma for those who used a digital phone 1,640 or more hours. And those who used both digital and analog phones, or if the type of phone was unknown, had a 343% increased risk of meningiomas. But the original article published on Interphone results showed a decreased risk of meningiomas, or no risk at all, from cell phone use.

Appendix 2 shows much higher risk of gliomas than what was published in the original article. There is no good explanation for the very different results published for gliomas and meningiomas, nor any sense to publishing the appendices separately from the study itself unless one wanted to lower the reader’s chances of seeing them.

The Big Unanswered Remaining Question: Why hasn’t the Interphone Study Group released results from the other two tumor types studied—acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors? These tumors are closest to where the cell phone is placed against the ear. Why were results from these tumor types, known from earlier research to increase with cell phone use, not even reported in the recently published results? The head Interphone scientist, Elisabeth Cardis, PhD, has herself previously published on the increased risk of salivary gland tumors from cell phone use, showing increased risk after 10 years, so she certainly would understand the importance. An international inquiry is in order.

The International EMF Collaborative, of which I am part, has called for disclosure of the full data set for acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors. Many scientists believe taxpayer money should otherwise be returned to all Interphone participating countries.

The questionable circumstances surrounding the Interphone study, its 5 year delay, design flaws, reporting omissions, and conflicting published results is screaming for a societal response. There are an estimated 4.6 billion cell phone users globally and more truth telling is needed NOW.

Take Away Message: Society needs to insist on greater integrity in science, and especially with regards to matters impacting public health. If the scientific field allows highly flawed and deceptive studies like the Interphone study to pass the peer-review process, who will assure the integrity of science? Do we need a watchdog group to peer-review the peer-reviewers?

And if the scientific establishment allows people like Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, that coordinated the Interphone study, to state “An increased risk of brain cancer is not established from the data” after discovering risks of brain tumors in this study at usage levels way lower than typical cell phone usage levels today, one wonders if there is any integrity left out there at all.

A 40% increased risk of glioma was found after 1,640 hours of cell phone use, even after the effects from the design flaws that underestimate risk. Not only was this not the essence of the news communicated by the Interphone Study Group, and many media reports that followed, but the researchers then used a single design flaw, that they do acknowledge, as a basis to claim ‘no causal relationship’ could be stated, effectively spreading the message ’round the globe that cell phones are not linked to brain cancer. Independent research on this subject tells us this is untrue, and the public has once again been misled on this ever so important emerging public health issue.




Camilla Rees

Co-author, “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern” (http://snurl.com/wphyt)

Member, International EMF Collaborative

Founder, www.ElectromagneticHealth.org

Co-author, “Public Health SOS: The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution”

Co-founder, Campaign for Radiation Free Schools (Facebook)

Co-author, Campaign for Safer Cell Phones Briefing Book (http://snurl.com/wpzbv)

EMF Advisor to Citizens for Health, National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy, www.FrankLipman.com and www.Mercola.com


Worthwhile Interphone Study Analyses:

International EMF Collaborative’s Technical Analysis of Interphone Study by Lloyd Morgan – http://snurl.com/wey8p

Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone (8/09)


International scientists endorsing “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern” include Ronald B. Herberman, MD, Director Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; David Carpenter, MD, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany; Martin Blank, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University; Professor Yury Grigoriev, Chairman of Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, and many others.

Quotations from Independent Scientists, Physicians and Others on the Evidence for Risk of Brain Tumors from Use of Cell Phones


Microwave News’ – Interphone Resources Round Up


Powerwatch.org.uk: Interphone results at last! (May 14, 2010)


Powerwatch.org.uk: Further Interphone Analysis (May 18, 2010)


Interphone Analysis by Joel Moskowitz, PhD


Media Teleclass on Cell Phones and Brain Tumors with Devra Davis, PhD, Joel Moskowitz, PhD, Lloyd Morgan, B.Sc. and David Carpenter, MD (12/10/09)


Lessons from the Interphone Study – by Magda Havas, PhD


Investigative Article: GQ Magazine

“Warning: Your Cell Phone May Be Hazardous to Your Health” (2/10) – by Chris Ketcham