Good news for a change…

16 September 2007


Sometimes it can seem like the news is full of scare stories about cancer, but this week has seen two pieces of research that could be seen as good news.

First, six years of research have found that there's no link between mobile phones and brain cancer or brain function, at least in the short term. This adds to a number of other studies that have found no link between mobiles and cancer. Although we still don't know for sure if long-term use of mobiles could have an adverse effect on health, the new study does support the evidence that mobiles are safe.

And at the moment, scientists can't find any explanation as to how radio waves, produced by mobiles and masts, might actually cause cancer - if, indeed, they do at all. The energy of the radio waves is not sufficient to damage DNA. So even if the long-term studies do show an increase in risk, it will be down to a biological mechanism that we don't currently know about.

The other good news story is for women who take the contraceptive pill. Analysis of data from 46,000 women, collected over 36 years by the Royal College of General Practitioners, has shown that taking the pill for less that 8 years doesn't increase your long-term risk of cancer. In fact, the pill may actually cut your risk of certain forms of the disease, such as ovarian, womb and bowel cancer, by between 3 and 12%. That's around one less case of cancer per 2,200 women who have used the pill for a year. But if women took the pill for longer than 8 years, the scientists found a slightly increased risk of cervical cancer, and certain types of brain cancer. On average, the women in the study took the pill for just under 4 years.

It's important to note that this was a long-term study, looking at the risks of cancer many years after women have stopped taking the pill. But while women are actually taking the pill, their risk of breast cancer can be slightly higher. It's also important to remember that the pill is taken by younger women, whose risk of breast cancer is relatively low, so this increased risk is relatively small.


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