'No risk of cancer from mobile phone masts'

4G mobile mast

Pregnant women who live near mobile phone towers stand no greater risk of their children developing early childhood cancer, a new study has shown.

In one of the most exhaustive investigations yet into the long-term effects of exposure to mobile signals, researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) identified a total of 1,397 children aged four or younger who had developed leukaemia or a tumour in the brain or the nervous system between 1999 and 2001.

It then cross-referenced their records against four other controls taken from the national birth register to explore common factors that many have led to the onset of cancer at such a young age.

The use of mobile phones in the UK has increased dramatically over the past few years, putting a strain on networks and their infrastructure, and increasing fears that long-term exposure for pregnant mothers could lead to cancer in their children.

But while previous studies have focused purely on small groups or individuals, and invariably offering contradictory evidence, the ICL study decided to take a different approach.

In each of the 1,397 cases it studied, the ICL researchers looked at the distance to the nearest mast, the total power generated by any base stations situated within 700 metres and power density for any base stations within 1,400 metres of the birth address.

"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," said Professor Paul Elliott, one of the authors of the report and director of the MRC-HPA centre for environment and health at Imperial.

Commenting on the report, John Bithell of Oxford University's cancer research group, said the findings proved there were far greater risks from mobile phone use than the risk of cancer, such as using the phone while driving.

Doctors "should reassure patients not to worry about proximity 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", Bithell said.