A U.K. epidemiologist has confirmed that glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive type of brain tumor, is on the rise in England. In a new paper, Frank de Vocht of the University of Bristol reports that he sees a significant and consistent increase in GBM in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain over the last 20-30 years.

Alasdair Philips, an independent researcher based in Scotland, and three colleagues first documented the increase last March (see our story). It was not due to improved diagnosis, they said, but they could not pinpoint which “environmental or lifestyle factor” was responsible. There was one clear possibility: cell phones.

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Not so, says de Vocht. His model —based on “synthetic counterfactuals,” a somewhat arcane modeling technique— tells him that whatever might be at work, it is “unlikely” to be cell phones. De Vocht maintains that the most probable explanation remains improved diagnosis, “especially in the elderly.”

Philips’s paper has been widely circulated, but no one, until de Vocht, had addressed it in public. The U.K. government will likely welcome his analysis: It supports the official position that cell phones do not threaten public health.

De Vocht is a member of an influential advisory group called COMARE, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment. “COMARE has always been about ionizing radiation; de Vocht appears to be the only member who has published on the non-ionizing side of the spectrum,” said Denis Henshaw, one of Philips’s collaborators. Henshaw is an emeritus professor at the University of Bristol, where de Vocht is now a lecturer.

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When Microwave News asked Philips to respond, he sent us the following graph:

GBM 1995-2015

“It clearly shows that most of the increase in GBM occurred in just two regions of the brain, the temporal and frontal lobes,” Philips said. “There’s no reason to believe that better diagnosis would favor one part of the brain over another. I’m not saying it’s necessarily mobile phones, but surely that’s the most obvious possibility. After all, the temporal and frontal lobes are exposed to the most radiation when a phone is held up to the ear.”

“I can’t think of anything else to account for what we are seeing,” Philips said, “What else is there?”

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