| Not so safe'
London, Oct. 14: Long-term mobile phone users have nearly double the normal risk of getting a tumour on a nerve connecting the ear to the brain, according to research published yesterday.
Those who have used mobiles for 10 years or more were found to be 1.9 times as likely to develop an acoustic neuroma compared to those who used them for less time or not at all.
Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found the risk of developing the tumours on the handset side of the head for long-term users was 3.9 times greater, but normal on the other side.
They identified no increased risk among those who have used mobiles less than 10 years.
Mobile phone industry figures last night stressed that previous research had failed to show such a link and that this study should be considered alongside the sum of previous work. But Anders Ahlbom, the professor of epidemiology at the institute and leader of the research team, said: 'We were surprised by the results. We think this is relatively strong data that is not down to chance. However, as with all research, we are keen for other scientists to replicate our findings before we draw firm conclusions.'
The findings back up previous work by fellow Swedes professor Lennart Hardell and Kjell Hansson Mild, published in 2001, which suggested those who had used mobiles for a decade were 2.6 times more likely to have tumours and 3.5 times more likely to develop acoustic neuromas. However, a study by a Danish group in February detected no increased risk of acoustic neuromas.
Prof. Ahlbom, whose work was published in the journal Epidemiology, studied the mobile phone use of 150 acoustic neuroma sufferers and that of a 60-strong control group.
Of those with the tumours, 14 ' one in 11 ' had had mobiles for more than 10 years. Of those without tumours, 29 had been using a handset for more than a decade ' one in 20.
Acoustic neuromas are rare non-cancerous tumours that develop on the nerve carrying auditory and balance information from part of the inner ear to the brain.
They usually occur in one in 100,000 people, and can cause severe nerve and brain damage.
In recent months, mobile phone industry scientists such as Mays Swicord of Motorola have suggested that research to date has failed to prove harmful health effects and that no more investigations are needed.
Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, a specialist Internet news service, said yesterday: 'Some have been calling for an end to mobile phone health research. I think this research, produced by Karolinska researchers, will put an end to those moves.'
In May 2000, Sir William Stewart's Government-appointed expert group on mobile phones and health concluded that the weight of available evidence indicated no adverse health effects from use of mobiles but also that children should only use them in emergencies.
The Mobile Telecommunications Health Research committee has distributed '8.6 million of Government and industry money to 29 research projects to investigate links between mobiles and ill health. Most of these will be completed by the end of next year.
Sir William, the head of the National Radiological Protection Board and the Health Protection Agency, will issue guidance on mobiles and health by the end of this year.
A spokesman for the Mobile Operators Association said: 'Individual studies must be seen in the light of the total research effort into mobile phone safety. There have been other recent studies that have failed to show any link between mobile phones and tumours.'
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH