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Research

Project Title:
International cohort study of mobile phone use and health (COSMOS)

Start Date:
April 2008

Expected Date of Completion:
20-30 years; currently funded for first 5 years

Cost:
£3.1 million

Research Team:

Principal Investigators:

Professor Paul Elliot

Dr Mireille B Toledano


Contact Details:

Department of Epidemiology & Public Health,
Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London
St Mary's Campus,
Norfolk Place, Paddington,
London W2 1PG


Expertise:

The Department of Epidemiology and Public health at Imperial College London has one of the largest research programmes in non-ionising radiation and health worldwide. Prof Paul Elliott, director of the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit, has over 20 years expertise in environmental epidemiology and has led studies of health effects associated with non-ionising radiation for over 10 years (see, for example, Dolk et al 1997a, 1997b, national study of leukaemia and other cancers near radio and TV transmitters). Dr Mireille Toledano has been working with Prof Elliott on projects in the field of non-ionizing radiation epidemiology for a number of years, including national studies of adult cancers near overhead powerlines, childhood cancers in proximity to mobile phone base stations, and pilot cohort studies of adult mobile phone users. Prof Elliott’s department also has considerable experience of setting up and conducting large scale epidemiological cohort studies including the AIRWAVE Health Monitoring study (cohort of British police personnel and TETRA phone use).

Approach:

Cohort Study design

Study summary and Importance:

Many reviews have concluded that there is no convincing evidence to date that mobile phones are harmful to health. However, they have only been in widespread use for a relatively short time and there are still significant uncertainties regarding possible health effects that might appear in the future (MTHR, 2007).

This international cohort study on mobile phone use and health (COSMOS) is a long term project to investigate possible health effects associated with long term mobile phone use. The UK study is part of an international consortium of five European countries (UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands) which together will characterise the mobile phone use (through operator traffic records and a self-reported questionnaire) and follow the health of at least 200,000 mobile phone users (18+ years of age) for 20 to 30 years. Health outcomes to be studied include risk of cancers, benign tumors, neurological and cerebro-vascular diseases, as well as change in occurrence of specific symptoms over time, such as headache and sleep disorders. The UK arm of the COSMOS study aims to establish a cohort of 90,000 mobile phone users selected from UK network operator subscriber lists.

This research is supported by the World Health Organisation which accorded the study highest priority in their 2006 research agenda for radio frequency fields. This study has also been accorded highest research priority by EMF-Net, the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENHIR), the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, and the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR-2) programme.

 

Outputs:

Peer-reviewed Papers:

Results from the project have been published in the following peer-reviewed paper:

Schüz J, Elliott P, Auvinen A, Kromhout H, Poulsen AH, Johansen C, Olsen JH, Hillert L, Feychting M, Fremling K, Toledano M, Heinävaara S, Slottje P, Vermeulen R,  and Ahlbom A (2010). An international prospective cohort study of mobile phone users and health (Cosmos): Design considerations and enrolment. Cancer Epidemiol, E-publication in advance of print. Link to abstract.

 


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