One of Australia's leading brain surgeons says a new report into the potentially harmful effects of mobile phones should serve as a "wake-up call" to users and the telecommunications industry.
Dr Charles Teo, founder of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, said he was "pleased" with the findings.
"There is an increasing body of evidence that there is an association between brain tumours and mobile phones," Dr Teo, also a former Australian of the Year finalist, said in a statement today.Advertisement
"Today's report should serve as a 'wake up call' alerting both the public and the mobile phone industry to the link [between mobile use and cancer]."
A report released by the World Health Organisation's cancer research wing says radio frequency electromagnetic fields generated by such devices are "possibly carcinogenic to humans".
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said heavy usage could lead to a possible increased risk of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.
The IARC had previously stated that there were no real health risks associated with long-term mobile phone use.
Dr Teo, who has in the past spoken out publicly about the dangers of mobile use, said that, although no new evidence had been published, the IARC's conclusions drew on the "known medical literature" and could not be ignored.
"This panel has reviewed the growing evidence of a link between mobile phone usage and the formation of brain tumours," he said.
"This is not an alarmist report, but a considered statement by a group of eminent scientists in the WHO and as such it should not be ignored."
The IARC's classification of radio frequency electromagnetic fields as "possibly carcinogenic" will now be assessed by the WHO, which can be expected to provide further advice in due course.
Meanwhile, a leading Australian researcher into possible health effects of exposure to radio waves does not believe mobile phones cause cancer.
Associate Professor Rodney Croft from the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research thinks further research will prove there is no need for alarm.
"There are clearly a lot of things that we normally consume in our daily lives that IARC has said, we really don't have enough evidence to be sure [if it causes cancer], but there is a possibility," Professor Croft said.
When asked if he thought mobile phones caused cancer, he said: "No, I don't.
"I really think there's been a lot of research out there, certainly in terms of the short-term exposure, [that suggests] there isn't a problem.
"The only thing that really remains is whether long-term exposure might be a problem because we haven't had the chance to look at people over an extended period.
"But on the other hand we don't have any reason to think that it might be a problem."
He said, unlike other cancer studies, tests analysing the effect of radio waves on animals and the impact on their offspring suggested "that there is no issue".
He said the latest report "is very consistent with what we've known for a while".
But there seems to be more "prescriptive" advice to minimise mobile use, especially for children.
Professor Croft said he thought Australians might take note of the announcement, but when they understand the nature of the classification - "possibly" - they'll continue to chat on mobile phones, just as they'll still sip a latte or eat a gherkin.
The IARC said the "possibly carcinogenic" classification put mobile phone use in the same cancer risk category as exposure to pickled vegetables and coffee.
Professor Bernard Stewart, scientific adviser to Cancer Council Australia, said it could take decades before there was any clarity on the link between cancer and mobile phone use.