A worldwide epidemiological study called 'INTERPHONE' has been conducted to estimate the hypothetical relationship between brain tumors and mobile phone use. In this study, we proposed a method to estimate 3D distribution of the specific absorption rate (SAR) in the human head due to mobile phone use to provide the exposure gradient for epidemiological studies. 3D SAR distributions due to exposure to an electromagnetic field from mobile phones are estimated from mobile phone compliance testing data for actual devices. The data for compliance testing are measured only on the surface in the region near the device and in a small 3D region around the maximum on the surface in a homogeneous phantom with a specific shape. The method includes an interpolation/extrapolation and a head shape conversion. With the interpolation/extrapolation, SAR distributions in the whole head are estimated from the limited measured data. 3D SAR distributions in the numerical head models, where the tumor location is identified in the epidemiological studies, are obtained from measured SAR data with the head shape conversion by projection. Validation of the proposed method was performed experimentally and numerically. It was confirmed that the proposed method provided good estimation of 3D SAR distribution in the head, especially in the brain, which is the tissue of major interest in epidemiological studies. We conclude that it is possible to estimate 3D SAR distributions in a realistic head model from the data obtained by compliance testing measurements to provide a measure for the exposure gradient in specific locations of the brain for the purpose of exposure assessment in epidemiological studies. The proposed method has been used in several studies in the INTERPHONE.