Monday, May 17, 2010

Brain cancer link to mobile phones?

The usual epidemiological garbage. The findings must have been VERY weak, considering the reservations with which they were reported. Good to see that they for once refuse to make a causal link between the one adverse effect they observed and phone use. The newspapers seem happy to say that one causes the other, though. I suppose that makes better copy.

Amusing that the researchers had to go to the top decile to find anything. Using extreme quintiles is the usual fudge but even that was apparently not enough on this occasion. No wonder their report was so guarded! Any extreme groups are very likely to introduce confounding with other variables

A LONG-awaited international study of the health risks of mobile phones has linked extended use to an increased risk of developing brain tumours.

The 10-year Interphone study, the world's biggest study of the health effects of mobile phones, found while there was no increased risk of cancer overall, those in the top 10 per cent of phone use are up to 40 per cent more likely to develop glioma, a common type of brain cancer.

Just 30 minutes of mobile talk time daily was enough to put participants into the top 10 per cent category in the study, carried out in 13 countries, including Australia, and involving more than 5000 brain cancer patients worldwide.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which conducted the study and has repeatedly delayed its publication, summarised the findings by saying there were "suggestions of an increased risk of glioma, and much less so meningioma, in the highest decile (10 per cent) of cumulative call time, in subjects who reported phone use on the same side of the head as their tumour".

It added "biases and errors limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn . . . and prevent a causal interpretation".

But the finding - reported by British newspapers yesterday ahead of its official scheduled release this week - has nevertheless ignited controversy among cancer experts, neurologists and other scientists.

Australian neurosurgeons Charlie Teo and Vini Khurana [The usual suspects] said last night the findings were a concern.

"Despite the study's methodological limitations that biased it towards finding nothing, the heaviest users were found to be at significantly higher risk of glioma, which is consistent with our message," Drs Teo and Khurana told The Australian.

"This (finding) does concern us, but it's also an impetus to do two things: the mobile phone industry has to supply the actual hours logged, and we need to track brain tumour incidence in Australia."

Other experts sought to reassure the public over the findings. IARC director Christopher Wild said an increased risk of brain cancer was "not established from the data from Interphone".

Although modern mobile phones have greatly reduced emissions the authors said phone use now was "much more prevalent and it is not unusual for young people to use mobile phones for an hour or more a day".

Industry group the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association also emphasised the study found no increased risk overall, and its conclusion was "in line with the weight of scientific opinion, which has found no substantiated scientific evidence of any adverse health effects".


'Holy Grail' cancer vaccine that blasts tumours in weeks hailed as huge leap in fighting disease

Good if it really works. Sounds over-optimistic but it will be years before we know. Proper clinical trials have a way of dashing bright-eyed hopes and theories

Scientists have developed a new jab which they hope will be a 'holy grail' cancer cure. The treatment, which will be tested on British patients over the next few months, can reverse and even cure malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

If it proves successful in large- scale trials, there are hopes that new forms could be developed to fight other forms of cancer, such as breast and prostate.

Experts say it may even stop people getting cancer in the first place. Lead researcher Professor Lindy Durrant, of Nottingham University, said: 'This is huge. We could now have a vaccine that can target a tumour and kill it without damage to surrounding healthy tissues or cells. 'In the short term, this could cure some patients with the disease, and in the long term it could be used to prevent people developing it in the first place.'

Professor Karol Sikora, a leading cancer expert, said: 'This is a very clever vaccine and I believe it will increase the cure rate for patients in the future.' More than 10,000 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year in Britain. Numbers have quadrupled over the past 30 years as more people enjoy sunshine holidays abroad or use tanning booths.

The vaccine contains DNA and fragments of tumour. These activate only the specific immune cells which target melanoma.

The treatment, developed by the company Scancell, will initially be given both to patients with advanced skin cancer which has spread to other parts of the body, and to those in the earlier stage of the disease.

Trials will begin at hospitals in Manchester, Nottingham and Newcastle. If successful, the jab could be available within ten years.

Professor Durrant said previous cancer jabs did not work because they stimulated the body's whole immune system, not just the parts which attack cancer cells. 'This time we believe the immune cells are more potent and will kill cancer cells,' she said. She believes the vaccine could be adapted to fight other tumours.


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