Epidemiological study (observational study)

Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study.

Published in: Int J Epidemiol 2010; 39 (3): 675-694

Aim of study (acc. to author)

An international case-control study (INTERPHONE) was conducted in 13 countries to determine whether mobile phone use increases the risk of brain tumors.

Further details

The INTERPHONE study was initiated as an international set of case-control studies conducted in 13 countries ( Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the UK) focussing on four types of tumors (glioma, meningioma, acoustic neurinoma, and parotid gland tumor) in tissues that most absorb radiofrequency energy emitted by mobile phones. In the present publication the results of the analyses of brain tumor (glioma and meningioma) risk are presented.
Sensitivity analyses were performed to detect potential sources for bias.
Regular use of a mobile phone was defined as at least once a week for at least six months.
Final report Link

Endpoint/type of risk estimation

Type of risk estimation:
  • incidence
(odds ratio (OR))

Exposure

Assessment

  • questionnaire: mobile phone use, including start and end dates of use, frequency and laterality of use, type of phone, use of hands-free devices, and other factors, such as type of telephone network
  • interview: face-to-face interview with the study subject or a proxy or telephone interview
  • calculation: lifetime cumulative numbers of hours of phone use and numbers of calls

Exposure groups

Reference group 1 never or nonregular use in the past ≥ 1 year
Group 2 regular use in the past ≥ 1 year
Reference group 3 never regular user
Group 4 time since start of use: 1-1.9 years
Group 5 time since start of use: 2-4 years
Group 6 time since start of use: 5-9 years
Group 7 time since start of use: ≥ 10 years
Reference group 8 never regular user
Group 9 cumulative call time: < 5 h
Group 10 cumulative call time: 5-12.9 h
Group 11 cumulative call time: 13-30.9 h
Group 12 cumulative call time: 31-60.9 h
Group 13 cumulative call time: 61-114.9 h
Group 14 cumulative call time: 115-199.9 h
Group 15 cumulative call time: 200-359.9 h
Group 16 cumulative call time: 360-734.9 h
Group 17 cumulative call time: 735-1639.9 h
Group 18 cumulative call time: ≥ 1640 h
Reference group 19 never regular user
Group 20 cumulative number of calls: < 150
Group 21 cumulative number of calls: 150-349
Group 22 cumulative number of calls: 350-749
Group 23 cumulative number of calls: 750-1,399
Group 24 cumulative number of calls: 1,400-2,549
Group 25 cumulative number of calls: 2,550-4,149
Group 26 cumulative number of calls: 4,150-6,799
Group 27 cumulative number of calls: 6,800-12,799
Group 28 cumulative number of calls: 12,800-26,999
Group 29 cumulative number of calls: ≥ 27,000
Reference group 30 no ipsilateral mobile phone use in the past ≥ 1 year
Group 31 ipsilateral mobile phone use in the past ≥ 1 year
Reference group 32 no regular user
Group 33 ipsilateral use, time since start of use: 1-1.9 years
Group 34 ipsilateral use, time since start of use: 2-4 years
Group 35 ipsilateral use, time since start of use: 5-9 years
Group 36 ipsilateral use, time since start of use: ≥ 10 years
Reference group 37 no regular user
Group 38 ipsilateral use, cumulative call time: < 5 h
Group 39 ipsilateral use, cumulative call time: 5-114.9 h
Group 40 ipsilateral use, cumulative call time: 115-359.9 h
Group 41 ipsilateral use, cumulative call time: 360-1639.9 h
Group 42 ipsilateral use, cumulative call time: ≥ 1640 h
Reference group 43 no regular user
Group 44 ipsilateral use, cumulative number of calls: 150
Group 45 ipsilateral use, cumulative number of calls: 150-2,549
Group 46 ipsilateral use, cumulative number of calls: 2,550-6,799
Group 47 ipsilateral use, cumulative number of calls: 6,800-26,999
Group 48 ipsilateral use, cumulative number of calls: ≥ 27,000
Reference group 49 no regular user
Group 50 contralateral use, time since start of use: 1-1.9 years
Group 51 contralateral use, time since start of use: 2-4 years
Group 52 contralateral use, time since start of use: 5-9 years
Group 53 contralateral use, time since start of use: ≥ 10 years
Reference group 54 no regular user
Group 55 contralateral use, cumulative call time: < 5 h
Group 56 contralateral use, cumulative call time: 5-114.9 h
Group 57 contralateral use, cumulative call time: 115-359.9 h
Group 58 contralateral use, cumulative call time: 360-1639.9 h
Group 59 contralateral use, cumulative call time: ≥ 1640 h
Reference group 60 no regular user
Group 61 contralateral use, cumulative number of calls: 150
Group 62 contralateral use, cumulative number of calls: 150-2,549
Group 63 contralateral use, cumulative number of calls: 2,550-6,799
Group 64 contralateral use, cumulative number of calls: 6,800-26,999
Group 65 contralateral use, cumulative number of calls: ≥ 27,000

Population

  • Group:
    • men
    • women
  • Age: 30–59 yr
  • Observation period: 2000 - 2004
  • Study location: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK

Case group

Control group

  • Selection:
    • population-based
  • Matching:
    • sex
    • age
    • ethnic origin (only in Israel)

Study size

Cases Controls
Eligible 7,416 14,354
Participants 5,190 7,658
Evaluable 5,117 5,634
Other: 2409 meningioma cases and 2708 glioma cases
Statistical analysis method:
  • conditional logistic regression
  • sensitity analysis (e.g., study center, interview quality, subjects reporting implausible high amounts of mobile phone use)
( adjustment:
  • educational level
)

Conclusion (acc. to author)

A reduced risk related to ever having been a regular mobile phone user was observed for the brain tumors glioma (OR 0.81; CI 0.70-0.94) and meningioma (OR 0.79; CI 0.68-0.91), possibly reflecting participation bias or other methodological limitations. In the highest exposure group (cumulative call time ≥ 1640 h) an increased risk was observed for glioma (OR 1.40; CI 1.03-1.89) and for meningioma (OR 1.15; CI 0.81-1.62); but there were implausible values reported in this group (e.g., mobile phone use more than 5 h/day). The risk for glioma tended to be greater in the temporal lobe than in other lobes of the brain and greater in subjects reporting usual mobile phone use on the same side of the head as the tumor was located (ipsilateral use) than on the opposite side (contralateral use).
The authors concluded that overall no increase in risk of the brain tumor types glioma and meningioma was observed in association with use of mobile phones. There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma and much less of meningioma at the highest exposure levels.

Limitations (acc. to author)

Bias and error limit the strength of conclusion and prevent causal interpretation.

Study funded by

  • European Union (EU)/European Commission
  • Health Research Council of New Zealand
  • Danish Cancer Society
  • Swedish Research Council (VR)
  • Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Finland
  • Health and Safety Executive, UK
  • Scottish Executive/Scottish Ministers, UK
  • Deutsches Mobilfunk Forschungsprogramm (DMF; German Mobile Phone Research Programme) at Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS)
  • MAIFOR Program (Mainzer Forschungsförderungsprogramm) of the University of Mainz, Germany
  • Bouygues Telecom, France
  • Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden)
  • Cancer Society of New Zealand
  • GSM Association, UK/Ireland
  • Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF), Belgium
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan
  • Ministerium für Umwelt und Verkehr, Baden-Württemberg (Ministry for the Environment and Traffic of the state of Baden-Württemberg), Germany
  • Ministerium für Umwelt und Naturschutz, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz, Nordrhein-Westfalen (Ministry for the Environment of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia), Germany
  • International Union against Cancer (UICC; Union Internationale Contre le Cancer), Switzerland
  • Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR), UK
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
  • 3
  • O2
  • Orange
  • T-Mobile
  • Vodafone
  • Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ), Canada
  • Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources program of European Union
  • Australian Research Council (ARC)
  • Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer (ARC), France
  • Canada Research Chairs (Chaires de Recherche du Canada), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA; Association canadienne des télécommunications sans fil (ACTS)), Canada
  • Guzzo Environment-Cancer Chair (University of Montréal) in partnership with Cancer Research Society (CRS) undertaken by the Environment-Cancer Fund, Canada
  • Hawkes Bay Medical Research Foundation (HBMR), New Zealand
  • National Health Service (NHS), UK
  • SFR, France
  • University of Sydney, Australia
  • Waikato Medical Research Foundation (WMRF), New Zealand
  • Wellington Medical Research Foundation (WMRF), New Zealand

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