Mobile phones and multiple sclerosis: a nationwide cohort study in Denmark

Aslak Harbo Poulsen, Egon Stenager, Christoffer Johansen, Joan Bentzen, Søren Friis, Joachim Schüz


    We investigated the risk of, prognosis of and symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) among all Danish residents who owned a mobile phone subscription before 1996. Using the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Registry and Civil Registration System, study subjects were followed up for MS through 2004. Poisson models were used to calculate incidence rate ratios (IRR, age range: 18-64 years) and mortality rate ratios (MRR, age range: 18+) and to compare presenting symptoms among subscribers and all non-subscribers. A total of 405 971 subscription holders accrued four million years of follow up, with men accounting for 86% of the observation time. Among subscription holding men, the IRR of MS was close to unity, overall as well as 13+ years after first subscription (IRR 1.02, 95% CI: 0.48-2.16). Among women, the IRR was 3.43 (95% CI: 0.86-13.72) 13+ years after first subscription, however, based on only two cases. Presenting symptoms of MS differed between subscribers and non-subscribers (p = 0.03), with slightly increased risk of diplopia in both genders (IRR: 1.38, 95% CI: 1.02-1.86), an increased risk of fatigue among women (IRR: 3.02, 95% CI: 1.45-6.28), and of optic neuritis among men (IRR: 1.38, 95% CI: 1.03-1.86). Overall the MRR was close to one (MRR: 0.91, 95%CI 0.70-1.19) among MS-patients with a subscription and although we observed some increased MRR estimates among women, these were based on small numbers. In conclusion, we found little evidence for a pronounced association between mobile phone use and risk of MS or mortality rate among MS patients. Symptoms of MS differed between subscribers and nonsubscribers for symptoms previously suggested to be associated with mobile phone use. This deserves further attention, as does the increased long-term risk of MS among female subscribers, although small numbers and lack of consistency between genders prevent causal interpretation.

    TidsskriftPLoS One
    Udgave nummer4
    Sider (fra-til)e34453
    StatusUdgivet - 2012


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