Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday that cell phone radiation can possibly cause cancer. The key word here is “possibly,” not probably. This announcement is based on an extensive review of studies on cell phone safety by a group of 31 scientists who meet regularly to evaluate the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.

Some of the strongest evidence supporting a link between brain tumors and cell phone use comes from a series of Swedish studies, led by Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD, from the Department of Oncology, Orebro Medical Center. These studies showed that risk increased with the number of cumulative hours of use, higher radiated power, and length of cell phone use. The issue of cell phone safety was to have been settled once and for all by the huge 13-nation industry-funded Interphone study. But to date, the industry-funded Interphone studies found no increased risk for brain tumors from cell phone use, with only 4 exceptions. The findings contradicted the Swedish studies, which were independent of industry funding.

There is no consensus among physicians and scientists about the severity of risk, or if one even exists. One issue in attempting to evaluate the potential connection between brain tumors and cell phone use is the relatively short period of time that these devices have been heavily used in a large population and the long latency period for many tumors.

The National Cancer Institute, for example, has stated that although a consistent link has not been established between cell phone use and cancer, "scientists feel that additional research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn." In a similar fashion, the American Cancer Society points out that even though the weight of the evidence has shown no association between cell phone use and brain cancer, information on the potential health effects of very long-term use, or use in children, is simply not available.

As Dr. Nancy Schneiderman, NBC Medical Correspondent pointed out last night, cell phone use had climbed over the past decade yet the incidence of glioma (the brain tumor alleged to result from exposure) has not.

So what should cell phone users do? Well, one thing is to restrict use if you’re worried.