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Epidemiological Study (cohort study)

Cellular telephones and cancer--a nationwide cohort study in Denmark. epidemiol.

By: Johansen C, Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin J, Olsen J
Published in: J Natl Cancer Inst 2001; 93 (3): 203 - 207 ( open external web page PubMed Entry , open external web page Journal web site )

Aim of study (according to author)
A nationwide retrospective cohort study of cancer incidence was conducted in Denmark of all cellular telephone subscribers from 1982 through 1995.
Background/further details:
Cellular telephone users were identified from subscriber lists of two Danish operating companies. The cancer incidence among the users was determined by linkage with the Danish Cancer Registry.

Endpoints/type of risk estimation

Estimate of incidence by standardized incidence rate (SIR)


groups of exposure:

group 1:  total subscriber 
group 2:  time since first subscription to a cellular phone service: < 1 year 
group 3:  time since first subscription to a cellular phone service: 1-4 years 
group 4:  time since first subscription to a cellular phone service: ≥ 5 years 
group 5:  age at entry: 0-49 years 
group 6:  age at entry: 50-64 years 
group 7:  age at entry: ≥ 65 years 
group 8:  cellular phone system used: analog 
group 9:  cellular phone system used: analog and digital 
group 10:  cellular phone system used: digital 
group 11:  duration of digital subscription: < 1 year  
group 12:  duration of digital subscription: 1-2 years 
group 13:  duration of digital subscription: ≥ 3 years  

Study group: men and women, aged over 18 years
Group characteristics: cellular telephone subscribers
Observation period: January 1982 - December 1995
Study location: Denmark
Source of data: Danish Cancer Registry
Exclusion criteria: corporate customers

Study size i cohort 
number total 723,421
number eligible 420,095
Remark: 1,128,493 peron-years of follow-up

Statistical analysis using Miettinen exaxt method

Results/conclusion (according to author)
The results showed no increased risk for all cancers, brain tumors, leukemia, or tumors of the salivary glands, the sites of a priori interest. No association between cancer incidence and cellular phone subscription was found with the latency, age at first subscription, analog or digital cellular phones use, and duration of subscription.

Limitations (according to author): No conclusions can be drawn for long-term users, since only 5.1% of the cohort members had a cellular phone subscription for more than 5 years.

(Study character: epidemiological study, cohort study)

Study funded by

  • Danish Cancer Society
  • International Epidemiology Institute, Maryland, USA
  • Sonofon, Denmark
  • TeleDanmark Mobil (TDC Mobil), Denmark

Published comments on this article:Related articles i
Glossary: analog, brain tumors, cancer, cancer registry, cellular phone, cohort, cohort study, digital, epidemiological, exposure, follow-up, GSM, incidence, latency, leukemia, lymphoma, mobile communication, NMT, retrospective, risk, salivary gland cancer, salivary glands, SIR, statistical, Tumors
Exposure: mobile communication system, analog mobile phone, digital mobile phone, GSM, NMT, personal exposure

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