Are cell phones responsible for vestibular schwannomas

Are cell phones responsible for vestibular schwannomas, I am often asked.  A vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) is a tumour that originates on the hearing and balance nerve.

Are cell phones responsible for vestibular schwannomas
Are cell phones responsible for vestibular schwannomas

Cell phones have become an indispensable part of human life. It is nearly unheard of any young person not in possession of one. Even smaller children carry them around so that parents can be in “touch” with them at any given time.

Cell phones emit electromagnetic waves that may affect the brain, altering function and causing tumour formation.

Although the literature does not proof that cell phones cause vestibular schwannomas some disturbing new information has recently become available.

A meta-analysis of 24 studies by Bortkiewicz and co-workers in 2017 supports the suspicion that long term use (more than 10 years) of cell phones increases the risk of brain tumours, especially on the side the patients uses the phone. The COSMOS study is another ongoing study following 290 000 subjects in 5 European countries for a period of 25 years. Unfortunately, the results will only be available around 2030!

There are challenges in these type of research studies. It would be very difficult to find a matching control group of people not using cell phones to compare with. The incidence of vestibular schwannomas are small (1,5- 2 per 100 000 per year) and many people would have to be followed. Results should show at least a 3 to 7-fold increase to be meaning full.

Another problem is that there are also other energy fields such as Bluetooth and WiFi that humans are exposed to. It may be difficult to discriminate between all these energy sources. It has yet to be proofed that electromagnetic fields (as in cell phones) cause cancer in humans.

Continues epidemiological studies are encouraged looking at all these issue. Hopefully we do not find an increase in vestibular schwannomas, especially in the next generation of children we are exposing to cell phones on a daily basis.

Sadly, only time will tell.