The Interphone study: Mobile madness

The threat to human health from mobile phones, if any, is much disputed. A shame, then, that a massive multinational study on the question has ended in chaos“Long-term mobile-phone use increases risk of benign tumours!” “Clean bill of health for the mobile!” “Mobile phone-cancer link not proven!” Those who have followed the saga of whether or not mobile phones are damaging people’s brains are used to contradictory headlines. A decade of coverage has left readers and viewers more confused than enlightened, with news reports alternating between alarming claims and soothing reassurances. Yet even by the standards of modern news, it is unusual to see such contradictory headlines about the same piece of research. Which is why a study, called Interphone, provides a cautionary tale.Interphone began in 2000, ended in 2006, cost $30m and involved around 50 scientists working in 13 countries on 14,000 people. It has, however, still to come to a settled conclusion. A draft of its supposed findings was circulated in June, and Elisabeth Cardis of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, who led it, thought until recently that a final paper would be submitted this month. Now, though, it looks as if that will not even happen this year.

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