Largest Study Shows No Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors

Michael Schulder, MD

According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, there is no link between long-term use of mobile phones and brain tumors or tumors of the central nervous system.  One of the largest and longest studies of its kind, Danish researchers found no evidence that the risk of brain tumors was raised among approximately 360,000 cell phone subscribers over an 18-year period.

While this study may put us more at ease, there are still measures one can take to reduce any risk there might be by either not talking for long periods with the cell phone to the ear or by using an earpiece or speaker.  By using these methods, any risk of brain tumor formation from cell phone use can be essentially eliminated.

In reality, the biggest danger from cell phones may not be from brain cancer, but rather from using cell phones while driving.  The risks incurred with cell phone use while driving, whether it is texting, looking at emails, or even holding a phone to one’s ear, are much higher than any theoretical risk of getting a brain tumor.  Common sense and medical studies show this to be the case.


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Innovative Study Looks at How the Brain Communicates with Itself

Ashesh Mehta, MD

In today’s world, networks operate in diverse situations, from communication networks that permit a cell phone conversation to social networks that link friends on Facebook. These networks have properties (e.g., each computer in your home with a wireless network) and hubs, where multiple separate sub-networks come together (e.g., a person who bridges multiple social networks). 

It is increasingly being recognized that these properties operate in our brain too – in both normal functioning and as a mechanism for disorders of the nervous system, like the spread of seizures across the brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a non-invasive method that can be used to measure the tiny metabolic changes that take place in an active part of the brain. To date, fMRI has been typically used to study what parts of the brain become active when subjects respond to stimuli (e.g., being shown pictures) or perform tasks (e.g., rotating objects in their mind’s eye). Recently, there has been interest in looking at how the brain works at rest, by measuring the fMRI signals in different brain regions and seeing how they activate and deactivate together. By measuring the relationship of activity between different brain areas, it is possible to describe an individual’s brain network, including sub-networks where brain areas with higher correlation are more closely connected (much like friends in a social network). While this has been studied extensively with fMRI, results have been difficult to interpret, because of the unclear relationship between fMRI signals and brain electrical activity. 
Validation of this fMRI methodology has recently taken a major step forward, with the findings published in a recent issue of Full Post - to Detail View

Olive Oil Associated with Lower Risk of Ischemic Stroke

Richard Libman, MD

Previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet has been associated with protection against dementia, as well as stroke. However, the exact components of the Mediterranean diet which may be protective have not been clarified by the studies. 

We know that olive oil, an important component of a Mediterranean diet, has previously been shown to be associated with a lower risk of heart attacks. A recent study published in Neurology, reported that olive oil was associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke  (a blood clot in the brain). 
In the study, French researchers from the University of Bordeaux and the National Institutes of Health and Medical Research looked at the medical records of 7, 625 people ages 65 and older from three cities in France. Participants had no history of stroke. Olive oil consumption was categorized as “no use,” “moderate use,” and “intensive use.” After five years, there were 148 strokes. The study found that those who regularly used olive oil for both cooking and as a dressing had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who never used olive oil in their diet. Most of the study participants used extra virgin olive oil.
This is most encouraging and may be useful in the general population to decrease the risk of stroke. A major caveat, however, exists with this type of study in that it is an observational study, not a randomized trial. For this reason, it is subject to multiple sources of bias, both measured and unmeasured, which can potentially give false results. As such, the study findings should not be taken as the final answer, but should stimulate further research. Full Post - to Detail View

Examining the "Stroke Belt"

Richard Libman, MD

National patterns of racial and regional differences in stroke incidence are similar to those for stroke mortality; however, the magnitude of these differences in incidence appears smaller, according to a study appearing in a recent issue of the Annals of Neurology. Known as REGARDS (the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke), the national study further elaborates on the geographic variation in the incidence of stroke, stroke risk factors and cognitive impairment, a condition that includes problems with memory, language or other mental functions.

It has been known for some time that the "stroke belt" is a geographical region with a significantly higher incidence of brain attacks. Stroke by itself is a major contributor to cognitive impairment and dementia. Furthermore, such risk factors for stroke as high blood pressure and diabetes are independent risk factors for cognitive impairment. In the REGARDS study, living in the stroke belt was also a risk factor for cognitive impairment.

The important message is that careful analysis of what makes the stroke belt different from other areas of the country can lead to more insight into what is causing the cognitive impairment, and, hopefully, result in effective preventive measures and treatment.

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