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Cellphones and Cancer: Critics Say Kids Risk Brain Tumors

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Scientists are calling into question a study published last year that failed to find a link between cellphone use and brain tumors in children and teens. They say the study actually shows that cellphone use more than doubles the risk of brain tumors in children and adolescents.

The concerns come from the Environmental Health Trust, a group whose stated mission is to promote awareness of environmental issues they believe are linked to cancer.

In July 2011, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the first study on cellphone use and risk of brain tumors in children and adolescents, which was conducted by researchers at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. The scientists interviewed children and teens in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden about their cellphone use and also collected cellphone records for a portion of them. Of the children studied, 350 had been diagnosed with brain cancer and 650 of them were healthy.

The July paper concluded that the data showed no link between cellphone use and brain tumors and "argues against a causal association" between the two.

In a letter published Thursday in the journal, the Environmental Health Trust said the interpretation of the study's results was flawed and contained several statistical errors.

Lloyd Morgan, a senior research fellow at the Environmental Health Trust and one of the authors of the letter, called the study "sloppy" and said the data reported in the original study actually shows that children who used cellphones had a 115-percent increased risk of brain tumors over those who did not.

"There's every indication that this study actually found that children have a doubled risk of brain cancer," Morgan said. "For them to just state that we don't think there's a problem is, for me, quite mystifying."

Messages to the journal and the authors of the original study asking for comment were not returned.

The authors of the original study do note some limitations of their work, including that a relatively small number of children were studied. They also wrote that they could not "rule out the possibility that mobile phones confer a small increase in risk."

International concern over the potential health risks posed by cellphones has gone on for years. In May, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer put the devices in the same category as lead and engine exhaust, citing the possibility that long-term exposure to cellphone radiation could have long-term health effects. Roughly 30 studies so far have failed to draw a conclusive link.

In October, the Environmental Health Trust also criticized the test used by the Federal Communications Commission to measure cellphone radiation, saying the measure did not accurately reflect the radiation transmitted to children and adults while using cellphones.

Concerns over risks to children are particularly heightened, considering the rising use of cellphones among kids and teens and the fear that children's developing brains might be more susceptible to the effects of cellphone radiation.

However, only two studies so far have investigated the link between brain tumors and cellphone use specifically among young people -- one is the disputed study, and the other is a research project currently underway in 13 countries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio