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Mobile phone use and incidence of brain tumour histological types, grading or anatomical location: a population-based ecological study
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  • Published on:
    Response to letter from Alasdair Philips
    • Ken Karipidis, Senior scientist Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
    • Other Contributors:
      • Mark Elwood, Professor
      • Geza Benke, Senior Research Fellow
      • Masoumeh Sanagou, Biostatistician
      • Lydiawati Tjong, Science officer
      • Rodney Croft, Professor

    We recently reported on brain tumour incidence time trends in 20 to 59 year old Australians, from 1982 to 2013, and analysed these in terms of mobile phone usage patterns and diagnostic improvements over that interval1. This was designed to determine whether claims that mobile phone use causes brain tumours, are consistent with the pattern of brain tumour incidence in Australia, and in particular to compare such incidence patterns with the results of the multinational Interphone case control study2. In summary, we reported that: 1/ Overall brain tumour incidence rates did not change over time; 2/ Increased glioblastoma incidence was seen during intervals that coincided with improvements in diagnostic technologies (CT, MRI); 3/ Decreased incidence of ‘unspecified’ tumours was seen during the same intervals; and 4/ No evidence of increased tumour incidence (including glioblastoma) related to mobile phone use was found (based on incidence rates seen during the period of substantial mobile phone use and on modelling using a range of hypothetical relative risks and latency periods).

    Philips submitted a Letter to the Editor3 of BMJ Open, where he purports to show that there are ‘significant flaws and unjustifiable conclusions’ in the above paper. Although he may firmly hold this view, his letter does not provide any evidence of this, and we strongly disagree with his statement. We have addressed the substance of his letter below to hopefully obviate potential misunderstan...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Significant flaws and unjustifiable conclusions

    Karipidis et al report that in Australia, glioblastoma (GBM) incidence increased significantly only during the period 1993-2002. They conclude that this was due to diagnostic improvements and that there has been no increase in any brain tumour histological type or glioma location that can be attributed to mobile phones.

    I am lead author of an ecological study published early in 2018 that examined detailed underlying incidence trends for 81,835 biologically malignant (ICD10 C70) brain tumours, recorded in England over the period 1995-2015 [1]. Karipidis et al cite our study and note that we reported that the overall incidence of GBM more than doubled over that time period (from 2.4 to 5.0 per 100,000 person years, age-standardised to the European Standard Population ESP2013, with annual case numbers rising from 983 to 2531). Zada et al (2012) [2] and Ho et al (2014) [3] have reported similar trends.

    Although we briefly discussed five possible causal factors that might have contributed to the rise in incidence, we stated that our article reported incidence data trends and did not provide additional evidence for the role of any particular risk factor. We showed that most of the rise in incidence was in people over 55 years of age. We discussed the possible mix of promotion of lower grade tumours and de-novo tumours. We also discussed the effect of better imaging and more accurate diagnosis and concluded that although it did have an effect, especially for topogra...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    Any potentially competing interests may be seen here. I see no financial gain, but list potential CoIs here:
    See: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2713-2279