Leszczynski: Ramazzini study shows that cell tower radiation does not increase risk for Schwannoma and glioma

On March 22, 2018, journal ‘Environmental Research‘ published a peer-reviewed article: “Report of final results regarding brain and heart tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats exposed from prenatal life until natural death to mobile phone radiofrequency field representative of a 1.8 GHz GSM base station environmental emission” by Falcioni et al, with the lead author Fiorella Belpoggi, Head of Research at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy.

The study has been justly heralded as the largest to-date animal study examining the effects of cell phone base station-emitted radiation on rats.

The authors of the study stated that:

“…A statistically significant increase in the incidence of heart Schwannomas was observed in treated male rats at the highest dose (50 V/m). Furthermore, an increase in the incidence of heart Schwann cells hyperplasia was observed in treated male and female rats at the highest dose (50 V/m), although this was not statistically significant. An increase in the incidence of malignant glial tumors was observed in treated female rats at the highest dose (50 V/m), although not statistically significant…”

…and based on this result concluded that:

“…The RI [Ramazzini Institute] findings on far field exposure to RFR are consistent with and reinforce the results of the NTP study on near field exposure, as both reported an increase in the incidence of tumors of the brain and heart in RFR-exposed Sprague-Dawley rats. These tumors are of the same histotype of those observed in some epidemiological studies on cell phone users….”

Following the publication of Ramazzini study, various news media and website outlets informed that this peer-reviewed study not only strengthens the evidence of the NTP study but that the Ramazzini study is a “game-changer“. However. there is a problem with the Ramazzini study and calling it a “game-changer” might be premature.

Also, the “peer-review” label does not automatically mean that the science and its interpretation is good or even correct. From the experience of being journal editor (Bioelectromagnetics, Proteomics, Frontiers), I know very well how imperfect the peer-review is. In the opinion piece that was published in The Scientist Magazine, I have said:

“…The publication of a scientific study in a peer-reviewed journal is commonly recognized as a kind of “nobilitation” of the study that confirms its worth. The peer-review process was designed to assure the validity and quality of science that seeks publication. This is not always the case. If and when peer review fails, sloppy science gets published.

According to a recent analysis published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, about 67 percent of 2047 studies retracted from biomedical and life-science journals (as of May 3, 2012) resulted from scientific misconduct. However, the same PNAS study indicated that about 21 percent of the retractions were attributed to a scientific error. This indicates that failures in peer-review led to the publication of studies that shouldn’t have passed muster. This relatively low number of studies published in error (ca. 436) might be the tip of a larger iceberg, caused by the unwillingness of the editors to take an action.

Peer review is clearly an imperfect process, to say the least. Shoddy reviewing or reviewers have allowed subpar science into the literature. We hear about some of these oversights when studies are retracted due to “scientific error.” Really, the error in these cases lies with reviewers, who should have caught such mistakes or deceptions in their initial review of the research. But journal editors are also to blame for not sufficiently using their powers to retract scientifically erroneous studies…”

The journal editor has powers to select reviewers and by selecting reviewers the editor may, if wishes so, assure that the manuscript will be accepted or rejected.

Ramazzini study is, indeed, the largest animal study examining effects of radiation emitted by the base stations. And, indeed it is a peer-reviewed study. And… nothing more…

The claims by the authors that their study shows an increased risk of developing Schwannoma and glioma in male rats exposed for the whole life-time to radiation emitted by the base stations is not sufficiently supported by the data presented in the study.

Table 2 in the Ramazzini study presents Schwannoma data.

Closer look at the numbers in the last column of the Table 2, presenting percentage of animals that developed Schwannoma, puts doubt on the authors’ claim. The single statistically significant data point in the whole Ramazzini study might be just a “glitch”. The sham group had zero of spontaneous Schwannoma…

An explanation that male sham group had zero of Schwannoma because animals were shielded in the Faraday cage seems not plausible because female rats, in the Faraday cage, developed Schwannoma in the sham group.

The plausibility of the sole statistically significant data point in the whole Ramazzini study seems very low because in the NTP study it was needed exposure at SAR of 6 W/kg to induce sizable number of Schwannoma (6 out of 90 rats) and exposures at 1.5 W/kg and 3 W/kg did not yield sizable numbers of Schwannoma (2/90 and 1/90). Exposures in the Ramazzini study were dramatically lower than those in the NTP study. The highest level of exposure in the Ramazzini study was 50 V/m equaling ca. 0.1 W/kg, what is 60x less than the radiation level that in NTP study induced 5 Schwannoma in 90 rats.  If the data of the Ramazzini study were to be correct then the NTP study should have seen much higher level of Schwannoma than it did.

The plausibility of the correctness of the data in male rats is further diminished by the data in female rats where the level of Schwannoma in sham group is over 3x higher than historically expected and where the data go “zigzag” and the highest level of female Schwannoma is observed in the lowest exposure group.

The authors of the Ramazzini study claim also that the exposures to base station radiation levels would cause increase of the risk of developing glioma. However, the look at the Table 3 also put doubt on this claim.

The female rats are claimed to gave glioma developed because of the radiation exposure and this is claimed to be supported by the NTP data. However, in the NTP study the male rats got glioma, not the female rats. While historical level of glioma in female rats agrees with what was observed in sham group, the result in male rats does not. In male rats historical data indicate 1.3% of the population of sham male rats should develop glioma but in the Ramazzini study the number is zero.

The plausibility of the glioma data, for female rats, is further put doubt when comparing levels of radiation exposure between the NTP study and Ramazzini study. If the Ramazzini data is correct then, in the NTP study, should have seen much more of glioma in female rats… but it did not.

The major problem of the Ramazzini study is the sensitivity of the assays performed at the extremely low radiation levels. While the total number of the animals in this study might be high, the numbers of animals in each experimental group are relatively small when looking for a rare disease at and extremely low level of radiation exposure. Spontaneous “appearance” or “disappearance” of a single case of disease from the experimental group has significant consequences. Comparison of the results of the Ramazzini study, performed at the extremely low radiation levels, with the results of the NTP study performed at much higher radiation exposure levels suggests that if the Ramazzini data is correct then the NTP study should detect much higher levels of Schwannoma and glioma than it did.

There is a very low plausibility that Ramazzini study data are result of base station radiation exposure levels. Appearance of the cases of Schwannoma and glioma. It is rather a “glitch” caused by the random occurrence of spontaneous cases of Schwannoma or glioma in experimental groups.

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14 thoughts on “Leszczynski: Ramazzini study shows that cell tower radiation does not increase risk for Schwannoma and glioma

  1. Ramazzini study has many inconsistencies that, when considered together with the weak if any at all effects lead to conclusion that the result of the Ramazzini study is – NO EFFECT.

    As to intellectual inconsistency, please, read carefully my NTP evaluation, e.g.:

    “…The major problem of the NTP study is sensitivity of the assays that are determined by the number of animals used in experiments. While the total number of the animals might be high, the numbers of animals in each experimental group are relatively small – limited to 90 animals. This is the problem when considering effects of radiation on the occurrence of rare diseases. Schwannomas and gliomas are such rare diseases. Spontaneous “appearance” or “disappearance” of a single case of disease from the small 90-animals experimental group has significant consequences. Thus, it is very surprising that research project where it was at least potentially expected that rare diseases such as Schwannoma or glioma may show up, was designed to use so small numbers of animals in each experimental group. As a consequence, the biological and health effects observed in the NTP study are most commonly not significant statistically. Not enough sensitivity in the assays precludes making far reaching conclusions…”

  2. Our additional comments, quoted from discussion on Twitter:

    “2b) The NTP study also reported zero incidence in some control cohorts, yet you dismiss Ramazzini on this basis whilst referring to NTP as reliable (intellectually inconsistent)

    8) The NTP study partial findings report a number of female rats developing glioma (p.13), which runs contrary to your statement: ‘in the NTP study the male rats got glioma, not the female rats’. Statistical significance is an important guide but it is erroneous to blot out data”

    The Ramazzini (RI) study is clearly subject to biological randomness (to be expected, as noted) and does not confirm NTP data as unequivocally as we would like as a result. It would be helpful to have more statistically significant data points (relatively low power density renders this somewhat unlikely); also preferable not to have a mysteriously relatively high incidence of schwannoma in the female control (remains to be accounted for but would be interesting to know the standard deviation for controls).

    Having said all of that, we cannot see how one can reasonably infer from anything we have read that RI “shows that cell tower radiation does not increase risk for Schwannoma and glioma”. As previously noted: tweets, blog article headings, and conclusions (now apparently amended) to that effect are unsound, and may also serve as to undermine the critical value of this work

    The RI data produced results that are consistent with NTP data (e.g. those noted in Section 3.2.1 & 3.2.2), if not uniformly so. Taken together, on balance these studies provide sufficient grounds to reject the null hypothesis of ‘no effect’.

    NTP provides strong evidence, RI provides limited confirmation. Both should be replicated ASAP and, in the mean time, the rationale for a precautionary approach with respect to the exposure of other species has been further underscored.

    “1 in 2,500 humans developing vestibular schwannoma is what we might call “small” vs. 1 in 70 animal subjects in a particular exposure cohort after two years exposure, additional to other (non-detected/statistically significant pathologies), not so much!”

  3. In my opinion Ramazzini study does not show effects. No RF-induced effect.
    Fact that some glioma and some Schwannoma cases showed up in some rate groups was, in my opinion, not caused by the RF exposure but these tumors appeared at random and spontaneously – so called biological noise.
    It is necessary to remember that these tumors show up in untreated populations of rats.
    Therefore, in my opinion, Ramazzini study does not confirm data from NTP study because tumors seen in Ramazzini study are biological noise and not caused by RF exposures.

  4. Our earlier comments (from Twitter), which have not been refuted, for reference:

    “You are quite right to raise some of the criticisms you have. However, the statement in your tweet [‘Ramazzini study shows that cell tower radiation does not increase risk for Schwannoma and glioma’] does not follow from your critique and some of your criticisms have weaknesses e.g.

    1) Statistically significant result does not stand alone, and nor should it, but that’s the point

    2) If we apply logic of a single statistically significant result representing an outlier to the [“effect”] finding then we may also apply this to false negatives e.g. zero male incidence at 50 V/m; 3) Not unusual to have zero incidence sham, & you note the small cohorts yourself

    3) Not unusual to have zero incidence sham, & you note the small cohorts yourself

    4) As you know, RI, NTP, and other experimental studies have demonstrated some randomness in results i.e. rarely a clear exposure dosimetry-response relationship (in part owing, presumably, to cohorts of limited size): linear projection at differing power density = unreliable

    5) Uncommonly high incidence in one sham cohort may (additional to influences we’ve already noted) may of course indicate an individual incidence of methodological/executional failure (would not reflect well on the study but would not mean discounting exposure cohort results)

    6) There are numerous sexually dimorphous physiological responses to pro-inflammatory (environmental) pathological processes e.g. testosterone is used to mitigate effect of inflammation (e.g. male RI), and is subject to depletion & threshold levels of efficacy (e.g. male NTP)

    7) Very little of what you have said in your bolded concluding paragraph follows from your criticisms, let alone were you to adjust them for our observations. Indeed, it reminds us of another less than convincing “very likely” statement we heard recently from the establishment

    Ramazzini study has only very limited predictive power, if any, but does show effects, and ones that support earlier data reporting carcinogenic risk (specifically including the same tumours e.g. NTP/Schwannoma). Some activists may overplay [the] strength [of the data] but important to empathise

    Important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and indeed to be open to criticism of one’s criticisms, especially where the former relate to a lack of criticality!”

  5. We do not know what biological and health effects are caused, if at all, by the very low levels of radiation emitted by the base stations. The fact that Ramazzini study shows that cell tower radiation does NOT increase risk of Schwannoma or glioma, this does not automatically mean that this level of radiation is automatically safe. Cancer is not the only biological effect that can be caused by radiation. So, the first data from Ramazzini shows that radiation did not increase risk of cancer. Did it do anything else? We need to wait for rest of the data from Ramazzini study.

  6. I am not rejecting data. I However, Ramazzini study data shows that cell tower radiation does NOT increase risk of Schwannoma or glioma. What is misinterpreted as “effect” is just a random biological noise.

  7. Mikko, Ramazzini study does NOT see Schwannomas. It is just random noise.

  8. Dear Dariusz, Now, what can I say??? We are ordinary people, if you understand me and my question, When the scientists say very different conclusion for NIR, how can I say to ordinary people : “Radiation from mobile phone and cell tower are dangerous for you”? Sorry but… I must ask Whats going on???

  9. I recently tweeted: Dariusz, “I agree with @ahosmikko that you reject the study because you assume a greater signal should give greater effect. It doesn’t. Our own studies show profound biological effect a million times lower in signal. You are errant in criticizing data which does not fit yr ideas”

    I have previously posted here warning you that current “controls” are not nearly adequate to produce an unexposed control group. Like Mikko, I have also warned that exposure to low frequency waves from Broadcasting, even below the electro to magnetic threshold at around 7MHz, does have a proven biologic effect which could be symbiotic and is rarely taken into account in today’s studies (eg: take a look at my presentation to a Medical audience here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37j2jDN8IVo&t=241 )

    IMO, a good Scientist will not reject data, but will try to adapt their own hypotheses to match the reality which unfolds before them.

  10. What is intriguing: We are seeing Schwann-cell tumors in epidemiological studies of mobile phone users + in animal studies: in the NTP study and in the Ramazzini-study.
    In 1980’s both the NTP and Ramazzini found a rare tumour (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ajim.4700030104) when they separately studied the effect of benzene on rats. Currently is a bit similar situation.
    The Ramazzini Institute’s study has it’s value, but we/they should definitely understand/interpret data better. Sorry, Dariusz, but I don’t see Schwan-cell tumor findings ‘random’ or ‘glitch’. Just a more thorough analysis is needed.

  11. Mikko, in this case looks that Ramazzini study did not see RF effects but just a random “noise” of spontaneously, at random, appearing tumors in rat population.

  12. Thanks Q. Nice to see that you follow… Best wishes from still snowy southern Finland

  13. Many of your questions Dariusz are important and relevant.

    When building this kind of RF-exposure set-up, the challenge is to have a really unexposed control group. So, was in control group’s chamber really RF 0 V/m? How high was AC magnetic field? What about transients? Another question is, where there magnetised metallic structures close to cages in rooms above or below test chambers, causing DC magnetic field anomaly? See also Portelli et al. (2013): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23457052 .

    This ‘ uneven’ and not-dose-dependent findings were seen interestingly in Tillman et al. (2010) and especially Lerchl et al. (2015) 3G(UMTS) studies where highest lymphoma levels were in 400 mW/kg-group, not in highest RF-exposure group (2 W/kg ). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25749340,20545575
    Maybe here are microwave radiation’s frequecy window -effects in place?!?

    It difficult to compare NTP-study and Ramazzini-study, because RF-exposure was so different: in the NTP study 10 minutes ON, 10 minutes OFF (continuously) for 9 hour per day. In Ramazzini’s case 19 hours ON per day.

    So many open questions still about the Ramazzini Institute’s study.

  14. Good analysis, Dariusz. It looks as if Fiorella has overstaed her case.
    Take care, Q.

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