It is the biggest research project in history on the subject. So it has to be right. It isn't. Pressing that Blackberry to your ear an hour a day will not give you brain cancer.
But five hours a day? For heavy users like me, the doctors still aren't sure.
"The study doesn't reveal an increased risk, but we can't conclude that there is no risk because there are enough findings that suggest a possible risk," the study's chief author, Elisabeth Cardis, said today. That's three double negatives in a single comment, so the hedge factor is very, very high. She and her team attacked the issue by the numbers: 2,708 cases of glioma tumours, 2,409 meningioma tumours, studied over a ten-year period.
We will get a chance to read the full report this Tuesday, to be issued by the International Journal of Epidemiology.
I wonder how useful data from the year 2000 is in such a study. We were too busy with Y2K to be chatting up on our Palms back then. In the last three years, mobile phone usage has exploded, not just in terms of number of users, but also in the number of hours a day we spend on our tricky little devices. Anybody have those stats? Please share. Ten years ago, only the bankers, real estate brokers (commercial, not residential) and CES attendees were talking on their mobile phone for more than an hour a day. This year, it must be two to three times higher (5x for the bankers), given that we are now officially dubbed the "mobile society."
So is the study conclusive?
Not if you read the fine print: "The heaviest users who reported using their phones on the same side of their heads had a 40 percent higher risk for gliomas and 15 percent for meningiomas, but the researchers said "biases and errors" prevent making a causal link. Given that the heaviest users in the study talked an average of half an hour per day on their mobile phones, a figure which is not heavy by today's standards, the researchers recommended further research."
And what of those young brains, the heaviest of all mobile users? The researchers cite they didn't include them in the Interphone study.
Another quote from the press release: "Observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use ... particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer is merited," said Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which coordinated the study.
For now, I will keeping using my mobile phone as much as possible, but also increase my anti-oxidant intake. My advice? Eat more leafy greens and talk all you want on your mobile device. And hope to live until the next study is released.