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As harmful as cigarettes?

The Sunday Mail | January 20, 2007
Fiona Hudson

MOBILE phones could turn out to be as damaging to health as cigarettes, a world expert says.

British expert Professor Lawrie Challis made the observation as he prepares to undertake a mass study of long-term phone users amid fears they are at greater risk of brain cancer.

Prof Challis will monitor more than 200,000 volunteers for at least five years to check for signs of an increase in diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The chairman of Britain's government-funded mobile phone safety research program said soon-to-be-published results revealed using mobiles was safe in the short term.

But the data revealed "a hint" of problems for people who used them for more than 10 years, he said.

A detailed follow-up study into long-term phone users was vital because the effects of cancer often took more than a decade to show up, he said.

He pointed to the after-effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in Japan in 1945. "You find . . . a long delay. The same for asbestos," he said.

Asked whether mobile phones could turn out to be the 21st century health equivalent of cigarettes, he replied: "Absolutely."

His warning comes despite a Danish study released last month, which found mobile phones had no effect on the risk of cancer

That study followed 420,000 mobile phone users in Denmark for up to 21 years and found mobile phone users had the same chance of developing the disease as the general population.

The research, which covered more than half the Danes who started using mobile phones between 1982 and 1995, found no increase in any of the forms of cancer that have been suggested as potential hazards of their use, including brain, neck and eye tumours and leukemia.

The study, produced by the Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, was published in the UK Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In 2000, a separate report found no evidence of danger, but recommended a precautionary approach to mobile use, particularly among young people.

Prof Challis is planning a another study into the effects of mobile phone use on children.

"We all know that if you're exposed to sunlight as a kid you are much more likely to get skin cancer than if you're exposed as an adult," he said.

Prof Challis told The Times newspaper he was in the final stages of negotiating a $7.5 million grant from the British Government to proceed with his studies.

Existing research has shown no conclusive proof mobile phone use is dangerous to health.

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