Originally published in Issue 4 2005 icon
We are proud to present an article specially written for icon by Olle Johansson, Associate Professor of the Department of Neuroscience at the world famous Karolinska Institute.
Cancer is, unfortunately, spreading in the modern society. Nearly all cancer forms are increasing when it comes to incidence, i.e. new cases/year (cf. Hallberg & Johansson 2002a). It could recently be read in the BBC News that skin cancer is rising in young adults, and Sara Hiom, head of the health information at Cancer Research UK said, when interviewed, that "Non-melanoma cancers are rising at an alarming rate".
More and more research efforts goes into understanding the molecular mechanisms behind these various progressive cancer forms, and much more money is spent on finding new drugs to treat patients. However, oddly enough, very little is spent on understanding the actual causes for cancer. Among such possible causative agents, more and more focus is nowadays put on modern gadgets, such as mobile telephones and computers, and their chemical and physical emissions, including flame retardants and electromagnetic non-ionising radiation.
Non-melanoma cancers are rising at an alarming rate
Childhood leukemia was early connected to power-frequent magnetic fields already in the pioneering work by Wertheimer and Leeper (1979), and more recently Scandinavian scientists have identified an increased risk for acoustic neuroma (i.e., a benign tumor of the eighth cranial nerve) in cell phone users, as well as a slightly increased risk of malignant brain tumors such as astrocytoma and meningioma on the same side of the brain as the cell phone was habitually held (Hardell et al. 1999, 2004, 2005; Lonn et al. 2004). In addition, a clear association between adult cancers and FM radio broadcasting radiation has been noticed, both in time and location (Hallberg & Johansson 2002b, 2004, 2005a). Initial studies on facial nevi indicates that nowadays also young children can have a substantial amount of these. If it can be shown that radiofrequent radiation is not correlated with child cancers the current focus on low-frequency electromagnetic fields can continue. If there is also a radiofrequent and/or microwave correlation then this must be considered in future research as well as in today's preventive work.
Most recently, Dr. Djemal Beniashvili and other scientists at the Edith Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, have demonstrated a possible link between exposure to power-frequent electromagnetic fields and breast cancer in elderly women (Beniashvili et al. 2005). They compared the breast cancer rates in elderly women from an earlier period (1978-1990) to a more recent period (1991-2003), which has been characterized by a much more extensive use of personal computers (more than 3 hours a day), mobile telephones, TV sets, and other household electrical appliances. They used available medical records extending over a period of 26 years, involving the analysis of more than 200,000 samples.
Most recently a possible link has been demonstrated between exposure to power-frequent electromagnetic fields and breast cancer in elderly women
Among the elderly women who developed breast cancer in the first time frame, 20 percent were regularly exposed to power-frequent fields. But in the more modern period 51 percent were so exposed, mainly through the use of personal computers. The authors concluded: "There was a statistically significant influence of electromagnetic fields on the formation of all observed epithelial mammary tumours in the second group." This represented a more than two-fold increase, which was considered highly significant (cf. Beniashvili et al. 2005).
Of course, many other environmental factors have changed during the period 1978-1990, but increased environmental exposure to power-frequent fields is among the more conspicuous changes to have taken place. Naturally, there are many aspects of this question that remain to be clarified, and, from a scientific point of view, it is far from conclusively settled.
During the second half of the 20th century an increasing rate of lung cancer was noticed in Sweden. Since mid 1960 tobacco smoking has been associated with this cancer and believed to be the main cause. Less noticed, though, is the fact that no connection between smoking and lung cancer was noticed before 1955. Together with my coworker rjan Hallberg we have therefore initiated a project with the intention to review facts that may shed new light on this sudden increase in getting lung cancer after 1955 in Sweden.
A large number of scientific reports point at tobacco smoking as being the main cause to the increasing rate of lung cancer in the world. These reports have mainly been produced during the second half of the 20th century. The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Sw. "Socialstyrelsen") states that 80-90% of the lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. The main part of the victims are also smokers. About 10% of the lung cancer deaths have been non-smokers. This has led to the suspicion that also passive smoking can cause lung cancer. Other environmental factors such as radon and asbestos are believed to cause a number of lung cancer deaths per year, and especially if combined with smoking.
As pointed out above, Hallberg and Johansson have earlier reported about a strong association between body-resonant non-ionising radiation (FM-radio, 100 MHz) and the existence of malignant melanoma of the skin (Hallberg & Johansson 2002b, 2004, 2005a). Since this frequency range has a penetration depth of about 10 cm into the human body there is a suspicion that resonant currents may affect the immune defense system also when it comes to beating cancer cells in the lungs. Due to that it is well motivated to study in detail how the presence and rate of lung cancer have changed in Sweden, in the U.K., and in other countries as this new environmental factor was added.
We have shown how the rate of lung cancer can accelerate in connection with a sudden exposure of a population to such body-resonant
In a yet unpublished report (Hallberg & Johansson 2005b), we have shown how the rate of lung cancer can accelerate in connection with a sudden exposure of a population to such body-resonant radiation. From this work, it can be noticed that persons, who have been smoking for many years, suddenly could get lung cancer relatively short after the introduction of the FM-radio. This abrupt increase was not noticed in counties where the FM-radio still was not rolled out. It is also noticeable that deaths due to asbestosis have not been known until after the 1960's despite the fact that asbestos has been used as a building material since the end of the 19th century. In our work it is also shown how weak the connection is between lung cancer and cigarette consumption in a number of countries. But if the lung cancer mortality is normalized to the melanoma of skin mortality in the same countries, all of a sudden a very strong correlation appears. This indicates that there is a common factor behind the fast increasing mortality of skin and lung cancer that we have noticed e.g. in Sweden.
An automated computer analysis of the age-specific incidence of lung cancer among men in Sweden points at year 1955 as the starting year for a sudden environmental change in Sweden and that this disturbance mainly affects men over 60 years of age. This method of analysis has successfully been applied to study the development of melanoma of skin in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the USA.
Authorities responsible for the health of the general population should have a big interest in causative factors behind such major cancer types. Doctors and specialists should know more about the real causes behind lung cancer. Epidemiologists in general might get inspired to test new methods and to look at populationhealth problems from a new perspective. Only the future, however, will know the answer to these medical hypotheses.
Beniashvili D, Avinoach'm I, Baasov D, Zusman I, "The role of household electromagnetic fields in the development of mammary tumors in women: clinical case-record observations", Med Sci Monit 2005; 11: CR10-13
Hallberg , Johansson O, "Cancer trends during the 20th century", J Aust Coll Nutr & Env Med 2002a; 21: 3-8
Hallberg , Johansson O, "Melanoma incidence and frequency modulation (FM) broadcasting", Arch Environ Health 2002b; 57: 32-40
Hallberg , Johansson O, "Malignant melanoma of the skin - not a sunshine story!", Med Sci Monit 2004; 10: CR336-340
Hallberg , Johansson O, "FM broadcasting exposure time and malignant melanoma incidence", Electromag Biol Med 2005a; 24: 1-8
Hallberg , Johansson O, "Lung cancer may accelerate during exposure to body-resonant FM-broadcasting radiation", 2005b; submitted
Hardell L, Nsman , Phlson A, Hallquist A, Hansson Mild K, "Use of cellular telephones and the risk for brain tumours: A case-control study", Int J Oncol 1999; 15: 113-116
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Hardell L, Carlberg M, Mild KH, "Case-control study on cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for acoustic neuroma or meningioma in patients diagnosed 2000-2003", Neuroepidemiology 2005; 25: 120-128
Lonn S, Ahlbom A, Hall P, Feychting M, "Mobile phone use and the risk of acoustic neuroma", Epidemiology 2004; 15: 653-659
Wertheimer N, Leeper E, "Electrical wiring configurations and childhood cancer", Am J Epidemiol 1979; 109: 273-284
By Olle Johansson, Assoc. prof.
The Experimental Dermatology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
171 77 Stockholm