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‘No link’ between early childhood cancers and mobile phone masts

A new study finds no association between a mother living near to a mobile phone base station during her pregnancy and the risk of her child developing cancer before the age of five
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
cell tower

23rd June 2010 - Living close to a mobile phone base station does not increase the chances of a pregnant woman’s baby going on to develop cancer before the age of five, say UK researchers.

There have been reports of ‘clusters’ of cancer close to masts, but the latest study, involving nearly seven thousand children, has found no cause for concern.

One group campaigning against the proliferation of masts described the findings as “unbelievable” and pointed out that the study had been partly funded by the mobile telecommunications industry.

The study

Researchers from Imperial College London looked at 6,985 children and explored whether there was any link between their mothers living near a mobile phone mast when they were pregnant and their children’s risk of developing cancer. 1,397 of these children were registered with leukaemia, a tumour in the brain or central nervous system or other cancers between 1999 and 2001.

The researchers then compared data on how close the children's birth addresses were to a mobile phone base station. For each child with cancer, four healthy children who shared the same gender and birth date were chosen at random to act as controls.

However, it wasn’t possible to take into account how many mothers might have moved to the birth address from elsewhere during their pregnancy, because these data were unavailable.

The researchers took into account a number of factors. These were:

  • The distance in metres between the birth address and the nearest mobile phone mast
  • The total power output for all base stations within 700m of the birth address
  • The power density for base stations within 1,400m of the birth address

Using this information they estimated the mother’s exposure to electromagnetic radiation over nine months of her pregnancy.

‘No association’

The researchers concluded that the children with cancer were no more likely to have a birth address near a base station than those who did not have cancer.

Study author, Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, says in a statement: "People are worried that living near a mobile phone mast might affect their children's health. We looked at this question with respect to risk of cancers in young children. We found no pattern to suggest that the children of mums living near a base station during pregnancy had a greater risk of developing cancer than those who lived elsewhere."

The authors acknowledge that their sole focus was early childhood cancers and that they did not take into account longer term health problems or other possible effects on health.

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