Mobile phones linked to eye cancer

German study finds a connection, but scientists insist wider corroboration is needed

A group of scientists claim to have discovered a link between mobile phone use and eye cancer.

Research by the team at the University of Essen in Germany found that people who regularly use a mobile are three times more likely to develop cancer of the eye.

The scientists examined 118 patients who each suffered from uveal melanoma -- a cancer which grows in the iris and base of the retina of the eye. They compared the mobile phone use history of this group with the history of a control group of 475 people.

Analysis of the results, which were published in January's Epidemiology journal, found that those with cancer had a much higher rate of mobile phone use.

However Dr Andreas Stang, who led the team of researchers, does caution that the study needs to be confirmed -- a point backed up by Epidemiology. "Given the small size of their study, the relatively crude exposure assessment, the absence of attention to UVR exposure or other possible confounding variables, and limited support in the literature, a cautious interpretations of their results is indicated," read an editorial accompanying the research.

The Sunday Times claimed that the discovery was the first scientifically proven link between mobile phone use and cancer. However, a spokesman for the Federation of Electrical Industries (FEI), the industry body for mobile phone companies, disputed this. "I don't think there would be so much uncertainly if this was the first study to imply a link," he said.

The FEI spokesman insisted that the findings of the Essen group would have to be reproduced in subsequent studies. "This is only preliminary research, and only one among lots of studies which have come to different conclusions. These results need to be replicated," he said.

In the abstract which summarised their research, the Essen group agree that their research alone does not fully prove a link. "Several methodologic limitations prevent our results from providing clear evidence on the hypothesized association," they admit.

In December, an American study into a possible link between mobile phone use and cancer failed to find a connection, but did suggest that more study over a long time-span was needed.

Earlier this month, a team at a Spanish University announced that mobile phones have a greater effect on human brain cells than was previously thought. The scientists, based at Madrid's University Complutense, discovered that a cell's non-spherical shape increases the intensity of the electric field generated within it by a mobile phone.

And, writing in The Lancet in December, UK scientist Dr Gerard Hyland warned that children are at the greatest risk from mobile phone radiation -- specifically from low-intensity, pulsed radiation which could affect a number of brain functions.

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