Two weeks ago, the World Health Organisation warned for the first time that mobile phones may cause cancer – urging users to limit their use.
The warning followed Interphone’s research from 13 countries that found that the even just using a phone for 15 minutes a day could substatially increase the risk of a brain tumour.
But it could come to late for many mobile addicts, as it takes 15 to 20 years for primary cancers to develop – meaning the ‘timebombs’ could have already done their damage.
Graham Lamburn, technical manager at independent watchdog Powerwatch, said: ‘This research shows that heavy users are at the biggest risk and that there is a very high increase in the risk of brain cancer from just 15 minutes of mobile phone use.
‘Fifteen minutes is really not that long any more.
‘Many people use their phones for much longer than that each day now. If the indications in this study are right … then this is a potential timebomb.’
He added: ‘In 20 years’ time, we could see around 20 times the number of people with brain tumours.
‘It is now time that public health organisations take action.’
Elisabeth Cardis, who led the international study, said an increased risk of brain tumours, also known as gliomas, was seen in the 20 per cent of users with the highest exposure to emissions.
She said there was an increased risk of brain cancer near to phone users’ ears – where the mobiles are held.
Those who had used handsets for 15 minutes a day for seven years, showed a 72 per cent higher incidence of gliomas.
Experts argue these figures are so high, the results are unlikely to be down to random factors and are most likely the result of mobile use.
They also claim that the true rate of the cancer risk could be up to 10 per cent higher than the research showed.
Gliomas are fatal, even with treatment, usually killing their victims within three to five years of diagnosis.
At the moment, the incidence of brain cancer in the UK is 7.7 people per 100,000.
If the levels of brain tumours increases by 72 per cent over the next seven years, it would cause the number of UK men suffering from them to rise from the current 2,223 to 3,824.
The levels for women would rise from 1,699 to 2,922.
A spokeswoman for the Mobile Operators’ Association, disputed the findings, telling the Daily Express: ‘The authors stress the uncertainty of their results and that replication is needed before a causal interpretation can be made.
‘A similar recent analysis involving seven European countries found no association between brain tumour location and position of phone use.
‘Importantly, long-term cancer registry data shows no increase in brain tumour rates despite the growth in mobile phone usage.’
He stressed that the conclusion of the Interphone study had stated that ‘the possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation’.
The spokesman said the industry was supporting further research under the auspices of the Word Health Organisation’s research agenda.