IARC in 2000 launched a study called Interphone, funded by the European Union, the International Union against Cancer and other national and local funding bodies. Interphone compared surveyed cell phone use in 6,420 people with brain tumors to that of 7,658 healthy people in 13 developed countries—Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the U.K.—to try to determine whether people with brain tumors had used their cell phones more than healthy people, an association that might suggest that cell phones caused the tumors.
The results are expected by the end of this year. “The interpretation of the results is not simple because of a number of potential biases which can affect the results,” says project leader Elisabeth Cardis, a professor at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park. “These analyses are complex and have, unfortunately, taken much time.” Among factors that might skew the results: failure of participants—especially those with tumors—to accurately recall exactly how long and often they talk on their cell phones.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average time between first exposure to a cancer-causing agent and clinical recognition of the disease is 15 to 20 years or longer—and cell phone use in the U.S. has only been popular for about a decade. (In 1996 there were 34 million U.S. cell phone users compared with more than 200 million today, according to CTIA–The Wireless Association, a Washington, D.C.–based cell phone industry group.)
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