Background: The rapid increase in mobile telephone use has generated concern about possible health risks of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from these devices.
Methods: A case-control study of 1105 patients with newly diagnosed acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma) and 2145 controls was conducted in 13 countries using a common protocol. Past mobile phone use was assessed by personal interview. In the primary analysis, exposure time was censored at one year before the reference date (date of diagnosis for cases and date of diagnosis of the matched case for controls); analyses censoring exposure at five years before the reference date were also done to allow for a possible longer latent period.
Results: The odds ratio (OR) of acoustic neuroma with ever having been a regular mobile phone user was 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.69-1.04). The OR for ≥10 years after first regular mobile phone use was 0.76 (0.52-1.11). There was no trend of increasing ORs with increasing cumulative call time or cumulative number of calls, with the lowest OR (0.48 (0.30-0.78)) observed in the 9th decile of cumulative call time. In the 10th decile (≥1640 h) of cumulative call time, the OR was 1.32 (0.88-1.97); there were, however, implausible values of reported use in those with ≥1640 h of accumulated mobile phone use. With censoring at 5 years before the reference date the OR for ≥10 years after first regular mobile phone use was 0.83 (0.58-1.19) and for ≥1640 h of cumulative call time it was 2.79 (1.51-5.16), but again with no trend in the lower nine deciles and with the lowest OR in the 9th decile. In general, ORs were not greater in subjects who reported usual phone use on the same side of the head as their tumour than in those who reported it on the opposite side, but it was greater in those in the 10th decile of cumulative hours of use.
Conclusions: There was no increase in risk of acoustic neuroma with ever regular use of a mobile phone or for users who began regular use 10 years or more before the reference date. Elevated odds ratios observed at the highest level of cumulative call time could be due to chance, reporting bias or a causal effect. As acoustic neuroma is usually a slowly growing tumour, the interval between introduction of mobile phones and occurrence of the tumour might have been too short to observe an effect, if there is one.
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