Background: Use of cellular telephones is increasing exponentially and has become part of everyday life. Concerns about possible carcinogenic effects of radiofrequency signals have been raised, although they are based on limited scientific evidence.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study of cancer incidence was conducted in Denmark of all users of cellular telephones during the period from 1982 through 1995. Subscriber lists from the two Danish operating companies identified 420 095 cellular telephone users. Cancer incidence was determined by linkage with the Danish Cancer Registry. All statistical tests are two-sided.
Results: Overall, 3391 cancers were observed with 3825 expected, yielding a significantly decreased standardized incidence ratio (SIR) of 0.89 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.86 to 0.92). A substantial proportion of this decreased risk was attributed to deficits of lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers. No excesses were observed for cancers of the brain or nervous system (SIR = 0.95; 95% CI = 0.81 to 1.12) or of the salivary gland (SIR = 0.72; 95% CI = 0.29 to 1.49) or for leukemia (SIR = 0.97; 95% CI = 0.78-1.21), cancers of a priori interest. Risk for these cancers also did not vary by duration of cellular telephone use, time since first subscription, age at first subscription, or type of cellular telephone (analogue or digital). Analysis of brain and nervous system tumors showed no statistically significant SIRs for any subtype or anatomic location.
Conclusions: The results of this investigation, the first nationwide cancer incidence study of cellular phone users, do not support the hypothesis of an association between use of these telephones and tumors of the brain or salivary gland, leukemia, or other cancers.