In a case-control study in Japan of brain tumours in relation to mobile phone use, we used a novel approach for estimating the specific absorption rate (SAR) inside the tumour, taking account of spatial relationships between tumour localisation and intracranial radiofrequency distribution. Personal interviews were carried out with 88 patients with glioma, 132 with meningioma, and 102 with pituitary adenoma (322 cases in total), and with 683 individually matched controls. All maximal SAR values were below 0.1 W kg(-1), far lower than the level at which thermal effects may occur, the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) for regular mobile phone users being 1.22 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.63-2.37) for glioma and 0.70 (0.42-1.16) for meningioma. When the maximal SAR value inside the tumour tissue was accounted for in the exposure indices, the overall OR was again not increased and there was no significant trend towards an increasing OR in relation to SAR-derived exposure indices. A non-significant increase in OR among glioma patients in the heavily exposed group may reflect recall bias.