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What's New in Brain Tumour Research
Machine Learning The field of machine learning provides tools and technologies for finding significant patterns in data, such as the correlations between the results of clinical tests and treatment success. People Dale Schuurmans Rich Sutton. There are technical statistical difficulties in assessing the statistical significance of changes if, as in this study, the researchers look at changes across a number of different types and sites for tumours and then concentrate on the biggest changes. So the true significance of the changes may well be less than the researchers claim.
However, as an exploratory study looking at brain tumour incidence, this research does point to something that may well be worth investigating further.
Other studies in other parts of the world have sometimes found similar increases. There is a section that describes quite a long list of possible causal factors that have been considered by previous researchers; this list includes X-rays from CT scans, fallout from atomic bomb tests in the atmosphere because the biggest rises were in the oldest age groups, who would have been alive when such tests occurred , air pollution from traffic, electromagnetic radiation from power lines, and electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.
The research also quotes a paper by Ostrom et al that lists several more possible causes. All this emphasises that, if indeed the increase in these tumours is indeed real and not some statistical artefact, nobody really knows what might be causing the increase, and the new research does not change that position. That research will not be easy though, because these tumours are rare, and remain rare after the reported increases. It was not sent out by the journal that is publishing the paper, or indeed by any of the organisations listed in the paper as potential competing interests by the researchers involved.
Archive of "Brain Tumor Research and Treatment".
The press release appears to come from mobilewise. It concentrates entirely on mobile phone radiation as a possible cause of increases in some brain tumours, even though the paper itself provides no new data on that. It concentrates on mobile phone use by children, even though the paper found that the biggest increases were in the oldest age groups. It includes a lot of material that is not in the paper at all and have only tenuous links to it.
None of this material about mobile phones is in the new paper.
Nor are the three graphs in the press release; the releases says they are taken from the study published in the paper, but they are not in the paper, though one of them is very similar to a diagram in the paper. It adds essentially nothing new about mobile phones. The press release is a campaigning document that is only tenuously related to the paper, and is in my view mostly not based on good scientific evidence. The paper highlights the need to understand why the increase has occurred. I would also suggest the need to find reasons why the decrease has happened.
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Such trends can, and should, initiate research into the reasons for them. These are worth considering, but it is important to put these theories in context. There are many other possibilities — including new pesticides, medicines, features of the diet, or air pollutants to name but a few. All have changed dramatically over time. Many have experimental evidence in animals of being able to cause cancer. The question is whether they do in humans. It is important that epidemiological evidence be examined in order to unravel answers to the important question as to why the rate of this severe type of brain cancer is increasing in this way.
There are many other potential influences on the data reported in the paper and it is crucial to not stretch the data too far since there are other factors that may equally be relevant.
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In this latter case this might include the increased availability of improved imaging options such as high-field MRI to detect and diagnose the brain tumours in the first place. So, the increase in incidence may therefore actually just correlate with the rise in image quality and the subsequent diagnostic indicators. The link to CT scans is also very tenuous — we would need a study looking at how and whether the increase in CT use, and types of use, correlates to diagnosis of brain tumours or indeed other disease classifications.
The authors do imply that other tumour types have decreased in incidence and there are a number of ways in which such findings can be explained. The potential alternative here is that incorrect links are proposed that may not actually stand up when the evidence is looked at.
However, this study does not investigate or uncover any causes for this and merely speculates at possible causes such as radiation emitted from mobile phones. Further research would be needed before any conclusions linking mobile phone use to the rise in incidence of this cancer could be drawn. The press release goes way beyond what the paper actually looked at.
There is zero evidence of a link between mobile phones and brain tumours. The quality of the peer review process for some Hindawi Journals has been questioned in the past. If, as the press release says, this is a groundbreaking study it would have been published in a more respectable journal. Some examples are given below.
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They use national cancer registration data for their analysis. They report an increase in the incidence of brain cancer in all age groups and report that this increase is particularly notable for more aggressive forms of brain cancer and cancers in certain parts of the brain the frontal and temporal lobes. The authors have presented nothing very new here.