Effects of cellphone use on children studied

Kiwi scientists will investigate whether children who regularly use mobile phones are at greater risk of brain cancer because their skulls are smaller and softer than adults'.

A group of Massey University researchers in Wellington has received government funding to find out just how vulnerable children are to the radio-frequency electromagnetic fields given off by mobile phones.

About 65 young brain cancer sufferers aged from 10 to 24 will be interviewed about their use of mobile phones.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand announced today that it would give $466,148 to Massey University's Centre for Public Health Research to enable it to join a worldwide MOBI-KIDS study.

The study involves 15 countries, 2200 young patients and 4400 who do not have brain cancer, and is the largest of its kind.

Co-investigator David McLean said mobile-phone use was increasing, yet previous studies focused on thicker-skulled adults and lacked certainty about their risk when used extensively.

A New Zealand study in 2008 found 22 per cent of 6 to 8-year-olds used mobile phones, compared with 42 per cent for 9 to 11-year-olds and 71 per cent for 12 to 13-year-olds.

Children had smaller and softer heads, with more bone marrow in their skulls, increasing the transmission of radio frequency, Dr McLean said.

They were younger, still developing and "there is enough concern that there could be a problem", he said.

It was a credit that the Government was funding such important research.

The study addressed a wide range of risk factors for brain cancer in this age group, providing important information about primary prevention of the disease.

Cure Kids would also contribute $100,000, and chief executive Vicki Lee said the study would provide great insights into children and their use of mobile phones.

"Brain tumours are the second-most-common cancer type in young people under the age of 20, after leukaemia, yet the causes of brain tumours are largely unknown."

The Health Research Council has announced a total investment of $65.2m in funding for 51 studies looking at issues that impact most heavily on New Zealanders.

The Dominion Post