Study finds no link between early child cancers and mobile phone masts

In collaboration with Adfero

UK scientists have found no evidence to suggest that children whose mothers lived close to mobile phone base stations during pregnancy face an increased risk of early childhood cancers.

A research team at Imperial College London studied almost 7,000 children, including 1,397 youngsters, aged 0 to four years, who had been diagnosed with leukaemia or a tumour in the brain or central nervous system between 1999 and 2001.

The researchers looked at how far these children's mothers had lived from their nearest mobile phone base station while pregnant and compared these distances with those for similar children who had not suffered from cancer.

They also took note of the total power output for base stations within 700m of individuals' birth addresses, and the power density for base stations within 1,400m of birth addresses.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the study authors conclude that children with cancer are no more likely to have been born close to mobile phone masts than those without cancer, suggesting there is no link.

There was also no noticeable difference in radiofrequency exposures between the two groups.

The study is the largest of its kind and is the first to look at the health effects of mobile phone base stations in Great Britain as a whole.

However, the authors pointed out that they were unable to identify mothers who had moved house during pregnancy in their analysis, as this information was not available to them.

Study author Professor Paul Elliott, director of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, said: "People are worried that living near a mobile phone mast might affect their children's health.

"We looked at this question with respect to risk of cancers in young children. We found no pattern to suggest that the children of mums living near a base station during pregnancy had a greater risk of developing cancer than those who lived elsewhere."

Writing in an accompanying editorial, John Bithell from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford said that doctors should reassure patients who live close to mobile phone masts.

"Moving away from a mast, with all its stresses and costs, cannot be justified on health grounds in the light of current evidence," he observed.

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, commented: "The results of this study will be reassuring to parents, as they show that there is no link between living near a mobile phone mast during pregnancy and the chances of the child developing cancer.

"Research like this highlights the importance of robust scientific studies in addressing concerns about cancer risk."