Mobile telecommunications and health: Report of an investigation into an alleged cancer cluster in Sandwell, West Midlands

Antony Stewart*, Jammi N. Rao, John D. Middleton, Philippa Pearmain, Tim Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Residents of one street expressed concern about the number of incident cancers, following the installation of a nearby mobile phone base station. The investigation explored whether the base station could be responsible for the cancers. Methods: Data were collected from residents' medical records. GPs and oncologists provided further information. Results: Ward-level cancer incidence and mortality data were also obtained, over four threeyear time periods. A total of 19 residents had developed cancer. The collection of cancers did not fulfil the criteria for a cancer cluster. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for all malignant neoplasms (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in females (1.38 (95% CI, 1.08-1.74)) and all persons (1.27 (CI, 1.06-1.51)) were significantly higher than in the West Midlands during 2001-3. There were no significant differences for colorectal, female breast and prostate cancers, for any time period. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) for non-melanoma skin cancers in males and all persons was significantly lower than in the West Midlands during 1999-2001, and significantly lower in males, females and all persons during 2002-4. Conclusions: We cannot conclude that the base station was responsible for the cancers. It is unlikely that information around a single base station can either demonstrate or exclude causality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-304
Number of pages6
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr Middleton is funded by the National lnstitute for Health Research (NIHR) through the Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for Birmingham and Black Country (CLAHRC-BBC) programme. This paper has been prepared under the auspices of the CLAHRC-BBC knowledge management programme. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health.


  • base station
  • cancers
  • cluster
  • mobile telephony
  • radio waves


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