Alarming new research from Sweden on the effects of radiation raises fears that today's youngsters face an epidemic of the disease in later life
Children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones, startling new research indicates.
The study, experts say, raises fears that today's young people may suffer an "epidemic" of the disease in later life. At least nine out of 10 British 16-year-olds have their own handset, as do more than 40 per cent of primary schoolchildren.
Yet investigating dangers to the young has been omitted from a massive £3.1m British investigation of the risks of cancer from using mobile phones, launched this year, even though the official Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Programme - which is conducting it - admits that the issue is of the "highest priority".
Despite recommendations of an official report that the use of mobiles by children should be "minimised", the Government has done almost nothing to discourage it.
Last week the European Parliament voted by 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter limits for exposure to radiation from mobile and cordless phones, Wi-fi and other devices, partly because children are especially vulnerable to them. They are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because - since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner - the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains.
The Swedish research was reported this month at the first international conference on mobile phones and health.
It sprung from a further analysis of data from one of the biggest studies carried out into the risk that the radiation causes cancer, headed by Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden. Professor Hardell told the conference - held at the Royal Society by the Radiation Research Trust - that "people who started mobile phone use before the age of 20" had more than five-fold increase in glioma", a cancer of the glial cells that support the central nervous system. The extra risk to young people of contracting the disease from using the cordless phone found in many homes was almost as great, at more than four times higher.
Those who started using mobiles young, he added, were also five times more likely to get acoustic neuromas, benign but often disabling tumours of the auditory nerve, which usually cause deafness.
By contrast, people who were in their twenties before using handsets were only 50 per cent more likely to contract gliomas and just twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas.
Professor Hardell told the IoS: "This is a warning sign. It is very worrying. We should be taking precautions." He believes that children under 12 should not use mobiles except in emergencies and that teenagers should use hands-free devices or headsets and concentrate on texting...