Cell phones and parotid cancer trends in England.

Posted on June 9, 2011

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A couple of months ago a group from Israel published some interesting data on the increase in rates of cancers of the parotid gland between 1970 and 2006 and linked this to the increased use of cell phones  (the paper can be found here). Very interesting, and it seemed to fit in with other data available from Israel (here).

Luckily, The UK Office of National Statistics monitors cancer trends and a large part of this data is available on line for free. Using these data I had a look at whether these findings from Israel could be corroborated somewhere else in the world (England…obviously) and whether it is likely that increased cell phone use could be an important attributing factor. The results of these analyses have now been published in the peer-reviewed journal Epidemiology (here).

In summary, similar to the data from Israel they do show that parotid gland cancer rates have been increasing in the previous decades. However, in contrast to the research team from Israel my interpretation of these data was slightly different. I quote the paper (or basically myself in this case):

Although these data from England corroborate evidence from Israel that tumors of the parotid gland have increased in the previous decades, the trends in England started before widespread cell phone use, are more gradual, and differ in magnitude by sex, which does not point to cell phone use as the main driver of these trends—although,
based on these data only, it cannot be excluded as a contributing factor either.

So what does cause, or more likely which things cause, this increase? In the paper I suggested increased alcohol use over that same period as a possible explanation. However, I did not specifically look into this in more detail.

As I said, interesting stuff…and suggestion are welcome 🙂

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Posted in: Public Health