Study aims to settle health concerns over long-term mobile use

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A new long-term study is to investigate a possible link between the use of mobile phones and long-term health problems such as cancer.

The international cohort study on mobile communications (COSMOS)  will run for up to 30 years and will follow the health of at least 250,000 participants aged 18-69 in five European countries.

Studies of short term use of mobile phones and health have shown few ill-effects - apart from the risk of motor accidents, of course. But  there are still some uncertainties about the health risks, since some diseases take many years to develop, and cellphones haven't been around that long.

"COSMOS aims to fill in important gaps in our knowledge of mobile phones and health," says Professor Paul Elliott, Principal Investigator of the study from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.

"By looking at large numbers of people across Europe over a long period of time, we should be able to build up a valuable picture of whether or not there is any link between mobile phone use and health problems over the long term."

Participants will complete an online questionnaire about their mobile phone use, health and lifestyle. The researchers will also monitor any health problems they might develop - for example, cancers and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's - for at least 20 years.

They will also analyse whether any changes in the frequency of symptoms, such as headaches and sleep disorders, are related to mobile phone usage.

"We still cannot rule out the possibility that mobile phone use causes cancer," says Professor Lawrie Challis from the MTHR Programme Management Committee.

"The balance of present evidence does not suggest it does but we need to be sure. The best way of doing this is through a large cohort study such as COSMOS and I am very pleased that the UK is to play an important part in this international endeavour."