I came across the graph at the head of the page while looking at an article which asserted that there was evidence that mobile phones do indeed cause cancer. I was at first shocked – I had searched for data of this kind and found only data showing no detectable trend. And then I was angered – because the rise seen in this graph very obviously has nothing to do with mobile phones!
The graph presented above, which has been generated by the Finnish Cancer Registry, shows a steady increase in brain and nervous system cancer cases among Finnish women and, to a lesser extent, among Finnish men. Therefore, the “urban legend” that there has been no increase in brain cancer cases in recent years should be put to rest.
The implication in this context is clear: that this rise is in someway connected with mobile phone use. Now Dariusz does go on to say…
…we should remain cautious and not jump to the easy conclusion that cell phone radiation is responsible. Cell phone radiation may be the cause for the increase, but there have been other changes to the way we live and our environment, and so it might not be.
My problem with this is that contrary his assertion, Cell phone radiation could not possibly be the cause of the rise. Look at the dates! There is a clear rise in cancers of the brain and central nervous system starting in around 1960. Yes 1960. A quick browse of Wikipedia confirms that something called a ‘mobile phone’ did exist in the 1960’s, but it was rare and could not conceivably be the cause of the observed rise.
- If a tiny number of phones in the 1960’s immediately caused an increase in cancer rates as shown, then the millions of phones we use now would cause the above graph to skyrocket.
- Alternatively, if there was a latency period – as one would predict if mobile phone use did indeed cause cancer – then where is it? The data would be flat and then show rise after perhaps twenty years of use – that’s the typical latency between starting smoking and getting cancer.
- Finally, notice that in the period since 1990 when mobile phone use has exploded, all that can be seen is exactly the same trend as seen in the 1960’s – but possibly flattening off.
So the the rise seen in the graph above cannot possibly be associated with mobile phone use. So what did cause it? Well, I don’t know, but I would suggest it arises as the product of improved healthcare resulting improved diagnosis, coupled with improved life expectancy – the graph below shows life expectancy for Finland using data from the wonderful Gap Minder. The data are nominally age compensated but as this page explains, the compensation is complicated.
I am not saying that mobile phones do not cause cancer: I don’t know whether they do or they don’t. I feel sure that time will tell. However, having looked for evidence that they do cause harm, I have never found any evidence of harm. And indeed the graph shown at the head of the page is actually evidence that the exponential increase in mobile phone use was not the cause of the observed rise.