Carleton University Prof. Paul Villeneuve has published research challenging epidemiological reports that linked increased cellphone use to brain cancer, specifically glioma.

Villeneuve and his team evaluated whether changes in cellphone use and the incidence of glioma in Canada were consistent with the hypothesis of increased risk. The results are provided in this article.

The number of cellular subscriptions in Canada increased from zero in the early 1980s to approximately 29.5 million in 2015. In contrast, the incidence of glioma, when adjusted for age, has remained relatively unchanged over the same time period Some earlier studies overestimated the predicted number of diagnosed glioma cases by up to 86 per cent.

The absence of elevated rates of glioma along with marked increases in cellphone use suggests that there may not be a causal link between the two.

“We have limited data on a national level to describe Canadians’ cellphone usages,’’ said Villeneuve, who’s with Carleton’s Department of Health Sciences. “This includes data on how many years individuals have used a cellphone, how often they use it, and even the manner in which they use it.

“But even when we applied conservative estimates of the number of cellphone users etc., our models suggest that findings from previous epidemiological studies, indicating an increased risk of brain cancer from cellphone use, are not supported.”

Villeneuve used data from the Canadian Cancer Registry to calculate annual incidence rates for glioma between 1992 and 2015 and data from national industry statistics to determine the annual number of new cellphone subscribers. The number of newly-diagnosed gliomas was compared to the number predicted in the studies that suggested a link by applying risks from epidemiological studies to age-specific population estimates.

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Steven Reid
Media Relations Officer
Carleton University

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