Cellphone warning for mothers: Using phone while pregnant associated with behavioural problems in offspring
But is it the fault of the phone or the fact that the mothers who use them a lot have an inert lifestyle with little exercise (for example). Lots of similar skepticism expressed below
Pregnant women who regularly use mobile phones could increase the risk of their children behaving badly, claims a startling survey. If their offspring then start using the devices at an early age, the chance of problems climbs to 50 per cent, according to researchers.
They found those exposed to mobile phones in the womb had a 30 per cent rise in behavioural difficulties at the age of seven. But those exposed before birth and in their childhood, were 50 per cent more likely to have behavioural problems than those exposed to neither. Children who used mobiles, but were not exposed in the womb, were 20 per cent more likely to display abnormal behaviour.
The findings by researchers in California are likely to reinforce warnings that children should not use mobile phones. However, some British scientists were sceptical, saying the findings may be due to lifestyle factors rather than mobiles.
In the study of 29,000 youngsters, mothers provided details of their lifestyle, diet and environment during and after pregnancy.
Information on their children’s health and mobile phone use was also recorded. Around three per cent of children scored abnormal on behavioural issues, with another three per cent ‘borderline’.
The study found that more than ten per cent of children exposed to mobile phones in the womb had mothers who spoke on them at least four times a day.
Nearly half of the mothers had their phones turned on at all times while around a third of children were using a mobile phone by the age of seven.
The findings published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health mirrored an earlier study by the survey team.
Researcher Dr Leeka Kheifets said both sets of results ‘demonstrated that cell phone use was associated with behavioural problems at age seven years’.
The scientists said social factors, such as mothers paying more attention to mobiles than their children, were only partly to blame. Dr Kheifets added: ‘We are concerned that early exposure to cell phones could carry a risk.’
In Britain, Professor Lawrie Challis, a leading government adviser on the radiation effects of mobile phones, has gone on record saying children should not use them until aged at least 12. But more than half of under-tens own a mobile.
Patricia McKinney, emeritus professor of paediatric epidemiology at the University of Leeds, said it was difficult to see how mobile use could affect an unborn baby. She said: ‘Exposure to radiofrequency radiation from mobile phones is highly localised to the part of the head closest. There is no evidence to suggest that other parts of the body are affected. ‘We also have no evidence that a pregnant mother’s behaviour is related to her mobile phone use and thereby affecting her baby.’
Professor David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, was also ‘sceptical’ of the results. He said: ‘One finding is that very young children who use mobile phones show more behavioural disorders. But is it plausible that the first causes the second?’
Professor David Coggon, from the University of Southampton, said: ‘The pattern of results suggests the increase in behavioural problems may have been caused by factors other than mobile phone use.’
In May, the largest study of its kind said that using a mobile does not appear to increase the risk of certain types of brain cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer analysed data for more than 10,000 people and found no link between years of use and risk.
A large omission would seem to be a failure to classify skin types adequately. Very fair people get a lot of BCCs and SCCs but not much melanoma. Melanomas are more common in people with an olive skin. A breakdown into skin types might produce more informative results
An Australian study appears to have answered the burning question at the core of sun safety - can sunscreen actually help to prevent melanoma?
Despite evidence that sunscreen can protect against less lethal forms of skin cancer, its effect on the incidence of rarer but often deadly melanoma has remained unclear. Complicating the research is the fact very fair-skinned people, who have the most cases of melanoma, were also most likely to heed the warning and so routinely slop on their sunscreen.
"People who are at naturally higher risk of melanoma are also naturally the people who use sunscreen," said Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Professor of Epidemiology Adele Green. "You can imagine then, this is very hard to disentangle whether there is a protective effect of sunscreen on melanoma. "There can even be this confusing effect where ... there's more melanoma among people who use sunscreen."
So while sunscreen has long been recommended as a "precaution" against all skin cancers, the science on its effect on melanoma alone has remained "highly controversial".
That was until Prof Green's unique study, which tracked a group of just over 1600 residents in Nambour, Queensland, and it showed how wearing sunscreen every day cut their incidence of melanoma in half.
The adults were randomly allocated to either a control group - who continued as per normal and wore as much or as little sunscreen as they liked - or a group given an unlimited supply of sunscreen.
Those provided with free sunscreen were asked to apply it every morning to their head, neck, arms and hands and the trial ran for five years to 1996. Monitoring over the next 10 years identified 22 cases of melanoma in the control group, and 11 cases among those who wore sunscreen every day.
Prof Green said while the result appeared to be conclusive it was too early to declare the sunscreen-melanoma debate as over. "I wouldn't say that on the strength of one study but this has to be reassuring at this stage," she told AAP. "... To medical professionals, public health authorities and the general public, that the regular application of sunscreen is likely to be beneficial with regard to melanoma protection."
There are three major types of skin cancer, with melanoma the least common but most often lethal as the cancer could spread from its initial site on the skin to generate tumours elsewhere in the body.
The other types - basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma - were more regularly seen but were less likely to spread and so were not usually life-threatening if detected early.
There are more than 10,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed every year in Australia, which shares the world's highest incidence of melanoma along with New Zealand. More than 430,000 Australians are treated every year for non-melanoma skin cancer.
The paper is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.