Do communication technologies and environmental exposures affect the risk of brain tumors in young people?

The overall objective of the MOBI-KIDS project is to assess the potential link between the risk of brain tumors and environmental risk factors, including use of communication devices.


After leukaemia, brain tumours are the second most common cancer type in young people under 25 years of age. Little is known about what increases the risk of brain tumours. Risk factors include exposure to ionizing radiation, family history of brain tumours, and some rare medical conditions. Exposure to chemicals and to electromagnetic fields may also be associated with the risk of brain tumours, although this is still uncertain. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the use of communication technologies, particularly among young people, and there is growing concern about their potential health effects.
An important limitation of the studies of brain tumours in young people to date has been the limited number of children and adolescents included. Although the frequency of brain tumours has tended to increase in young people over recent decades, it is fortunately still a rare disease. Therefore, international studies are needed to better understand the effects of environmental factors on the risk of this disease.

What is being done

Over a period of six years, nearly 1.000 young people aged 10 to 24 years with brain tumours and over 2.000 healthy persons were invited to participate in the study.

Participants were asked for information (by questionnaire) about personal risk factors (such as age and gender), residential history, history of environmental exposures, use of communication technologies and personal and family health information.
Validation studies have been conducted to evaluate the adequacy of questionnaire responses and to adress the possibility of a number of potential bias, characteristics of case-control studies, including recall bias and error, participation bias, survival bias.

Current status

MOBI-KIDS was conducted in 14 countries. Case ascertainment was completed at the end of 2016. A number of methodological papers have been published (see Publications) and are in process. Results of the analysis of risk of brain tumours in relation to mobile communication devices and resulting exposure to ELF and RF will be submitted for publication in 2020.

A number of other analyses are underway or starting, including risk of brain tumours in relation to medical radiation exposure, exposures in utero, personal and family medical history, air pollution and occupational exposures and clinical epidemiology of brain tumours in young people.

Financial support

Financial support for the study was provided by the European Union (grant agreements 226873 and 603794) as well as by local and national funding sources in the participating countries.