About this study

What is COSMOS?

COSMOS is an international cohort study investigating possible health effects from long term use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies.

What is a cohort study?

In a cohort study, the health of people who form the cohort is followed over a period of time. For this study the cohort is a large group of people who are using mobile phones in their daily lives.

How large is the COSMOS Study?

The international COSMOS study now has approximately 290,000 participants across 5 partner countries in Europe. The UK cohort, with nearly 105,000 participants, makes up the largest part of this international cohort. Sweden recruited 50,000 participants and Denmark recruited 30,000 participants, The Netherlands recruited 90,000 participants and Finland recruited 15,000. Recruitment in all participating countries is completed now.

France has recently received funding and will join the international COSMOS study.

What is the purpose of COSMOS?

To carry out long term health monitoring of a large group of people so that we can identify if there are any possible health issues linked to using mobile phones and other wireless technologies over a long period of time.

Why is this research important?

Mobile phones have only been in widespread use for a relatively short time. It is important that we begin now to monitor the health of a large group of people over a long period of time. Through this health monitoring, we will be able to resolve current uncertainties about possible long term health effects associated with this new technology. This research has been endorsed as a priority by agencies worldwide, including the Department of Health, the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA), the UK Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR), the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENHIR), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Following the publication of the Stewart report by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones in 2000, a programme of research, called the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR), was set up in the UK to look into the possible health impact of Mobile Telecommunications. The most recent report from the MTHR concluded that:

“...short term (less than ten years) exposure to mobile phone emissions is not associated with an increase in brain and nervous system cancers. However, there are still significant uncertainties that can only be resolved by monitoring the health of a large cohort of phone users over a long period of time.”

“The Committee is convinced that the best way to address these uncertainties is to carry out a large cohort study of mobile phone users, an approach that has also been rated as a high priority by the World Health Organisation.”

Government information on mobile phone use and health is provided on the HPA website.

What health outcomes will be studied?

We will be looking at any changes in the frequency of specific symptoms over time, such as headaches and sleep disorders, and also the risks of cancers, benign tumours, neurological and cerebro-vascular diseases.

Who is conducting this study?

In the UK, Imperial College London is carrying out this research. COSMOS is an international study being conducted in a number of European countries. Details of our project partners can be seen here.

Who is funding this study?

The study in the UK is jointly funded by industry and government under the Research Initiative on Health and Mobile Telecommunications (RIHMT), and is managed through the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme.