Health and Mobile Phones: How Many Studies Do We Need??

Several mobile phones
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Here be Dragons

2nd July 2011: BBC headline “Mobile phones ‘unlikely’ to cause cancer”. Health reporter James Gallagher explains that:

Mounting evidence suggests there is no link between mobile phones and brain cancer, according to a review by the Institute of Cancer Research.

The report is discussing a review by the Institute of Cancer Research of a study by the World Health Organisation.

31st May 2011: BBC headline “Mobiles ‘may cause brain cancer'”. Health reporter James Gallagher reported on the WHO study itself:

The World Health Organization’s cancer research agency says mobile phones are “possibly carcinogenic”.

A review of evidence suggests an increased risk of a malignant type of brain cancer cannot be ruled out.

All this follows on from a report on 17th May 2010 headlined “No proof of mobile cancer risk, major study concludes”, which reported that:

Using a mobile phone does not appear to increase the risk of developing certain types of brain cancer, the largest study of its kind has concluded.

Analysis of more than 10,000 people by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found no relationship between years of use and risk.

Or how about this from 30th August 2005, headlined Mobile phone cancer link rejected”, in which the BBC reported that:

Mobile phone use does not raise the risk of cancer, at least in the first 10 years of use, the largest investigation to date shows.

The latest Institute of Cancer Research work includes data from five European countries and more than 4,000 people.

Want to go back a little further?

11th April 2005, and the BBC, under the headline “Mobile phones ‘safe for brains'”, reported that:

Using a mobile phone does not increase the risk of developing a brain tumour, the latest research suggests.

The Danish study, which appears in the journal Neurology, involved more than 1,000 people.

All the reports do have one thing in common. They all conclude that “more research is needed”.

How much is enough, I wonder?

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Fun with Statistics

The BBC reports that “Bipolar disorder is not to blame for violent behaviour”.

A study by the Oxford University Department of Psychiatry looked at the behaviour of people in Sweden. (Don’t ask.)

People with a severe mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else – unless they abuse drugs or alcohol

says the report.

The team, led by consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Seena Fazel, wanted to examine the public perception that there is a link between the disorder and violent crime.

And the study found that:

The rates of violent crime among people who were mentally ill and abused substances were no different to those among the general population who abused substances.

In each group, the rate of violent crime was between six and seven times higher than in the general population…if the substance abuse was taken away, the illness itself had a “minimal” or non-existent role in violence.

Dr Fazel said:

It’s probably more dangerous walking outside a pub on a late night than walking outside a hospital where patients have been released.

And then comes the killer:

The study said that people with bipolar disorder were 10 times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than those in the overall population

Which means, of course, that they are significantly more likely to commit violent crime and that Dr Fazel is talking nonsense.