Experts say cellphones are 'possibly carcinogenic'

May 31, 2011 By MARIA CHENG , AP Medical Writer
A man uses a cell phone in New York. The use of cell phones and other wireless communication devices are "possibly carcinogenic to humans", the World Health Organisation's cancer research agency said Tuesday.

(AP) -- A respected international panel of scientists says cellphones are possible cancer-causing agents, putting them in the same category as the pesticide DDT, gasoline engine exhaust and coffee.

The classification was issued Tuesday in Lyon, France, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer after a review of dozens of published studies. The agency is an arm of the World Health Organization and its assessment now goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.

Classifying agents as "possibly carcinogenic" doesn't mean they automatically cause cancer and some experts said the ruling shouldn't change people's cellphone habits.

"Anything is a possible carcinogen," said Donald Berry, a professor of biostatistics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. He was not involved in the WHO cancer group's assessment. "This is not something I worry about and it will not in any way change how I use my cellphone," he said - speaking from his cellphone.

The same cancer research agency lists alcoholic drinks as a known carcinogen and night shift work as a probable carcinogen. Anyone's risk for cancer depends on many factors, from genetic makeup to the amount and length of time of an exposure.

After a weeklong meeting on the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar, the expert panel said there was limited evidence cellphone use was linked to two types of brain tumors and inadequate evidence to draw conclusions for other cancers.

"We found some threads of evidence telling us how cancers might occur, but there were acknowledged gaps and uncertainties," said Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, the panel's chairman.

"The WHO's verdict means there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer but it is too weak to draw strong conclusions from," said Ed Yong, head of health information at Cancer Research U.K. "If such a link exists, it is unlikely to be a large one."

Last year, results of a large study found no clear link between cellphones and cancer. But some advocacy groups contend the study raised serious concerns because it showed a hint of a possible connection between very heavy phone use and glioma, a rare but often deadly form of brain tumor. However, the numbers in that subgroup weren't sufficient to make the case.

The study was controversial because it began with people who already had cancer and asked them to recall how often they used their cellphones more than a decade ago.

In about 30 other studies done in Europe, New Zealand and the U.S., patients with brain tumors have not reported using their cellphones more often than unaffected people.

Because cellphones are so popular, it may be impossible for experts to compare cellphone users who develop brain tumors with people who don't use the devices. According to a survey last year, the number of cellphone subscribers worldwide has hit 5 billion, or nearly three-quarters of the global population.

People's cellphone habits have also changed dramatically since the first studies began years ago and it's unclear if the results of previous research would still apply today.

Since many cancerous tumors take decades to develop, experts say it's impossible to conclude cellphones have no long-term health risks. The studies conducted so far haven't tracked people for longer than about a decade.

Cellphones send signals to nearby towers via radio frequency waves, a form of energy similar to FM radio waves and microwaves. But the radiation produced by cellphones cannot directly damage DNA and is different from stronger types of radiation like X-rays or ultraviolet light. At very high levels, radio frequency waves from cellphones can heat up body tissue, but that is not believed to damage human cells.

Some experts recommended people use a headset or earpiece if they are worried about the possible health dangers of cellphones. "If there is a risk, most of it goes away with a wireless earpiece," said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

Brawley said people should focus on the real health hazards of cellphones. "Cellphones may cause brain tumors but they kill far more people through automobile accidents," he said. Brawley added it was also reasonable to limit children's use of cellphones since their brains are still developing.

Earlier this year, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study found that cellphone use can speed up brain activity, but it is unknown whether that has any dangerous health effects.

The cellphone industry trade group, CTIA-The Wireless Association, pointed to two U.S. agencies that have found no evidence cellphones are linked to cancer - the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.

The WHO's cancer research agency has reviewed more than 900 occupational exposures, chemicals and other agents since 1971, classifying their link to cancer by labeling them from carcinogenic to probably not carcinogenic. The American Cancer Society has estimated that only about 6 percent of cancers are related to environmental causes and most of that is on-the-job occupational exposure.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

More information: http://www.iarc.fr

http://www.cancer.org

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org

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User comments : 21

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FrankHerbert
2.4 / 5 (8) May 31, 2011
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LMAO
random
1.5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2011
No kidding... This should not come as a surprise given the premise of microwave radiation, close contact, and extended usage time. It doesn't mean we should stop using them, only that engineers must quickly develop a way in which they can be made less harmful. In the meantime, the benefits outweigh the cancer if you ask me.
sstritt
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
OK- has anyone thought of this idea? A meta-material phone antenna which would create a void where the user's head would be (essentially cloak the head from radiation)?
gwrede
3.3 / 5 (9) May 31, 2011
If cellphone use made any real-world difference to peoples' health, we would already know it because cancer rates would follow cellphone penetration in countries, and epidemiologists would have noticed it years ago.

This persisten cellphone paranoia is unbelievable. No matter how many studies say a firm "no", it only takes one study that says "we cannot exclude", and everybody pees in their pants.

People eat too much salt, fat, red meat, they smoke and drink, even when they know that's bad. And you wouldn't want to know the number of people that die from these things. (You probably shouldn't, you'd get a heart attack.) But cellphones, they're lethal! You just know, right?
210
2 / 5 (4) May 31, 2011
If cellphone use made any real-world difference to peoples' health, we would already know it because cancer rates would follow cellphone penetration in countries, and epidemiologists would have noticed it years ago.

No. you might not..in fact, unlike environmental factors of a chemical, biological/vector, or mechanical nature, electromagnetic factors would be MOST difficult to trace because they left no residue/metabolite/smoking gun as we have come to expect over the decades and centuries of non-EM related carcinogens.
Just establishing a wattage/centimeter threshold for cancer would require a broadband expression for damage(frequency) as well as a power component to disease threshold. Further, the fact that this is an issue at all means something caught the attention of the public and science B4 now. Smoke cigarettes, get lung cancer. Microwave a chicken dinner, get cancer from the same frequency RF at 1/100th the power; hummm..who knew?!
word-to-ya-muthas
Magus
5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2011
I thought the waves that come from a cellphone are too large to knock off electrons from an atom
sstritt
3.7 / 5 (3) May 31, 2011
I thought the waves that come from a cellphone are too large to knock off electrons from an atom

Yes- non-ionizing radiation. Does anyone know what mechanism is proposed as the cause?
Na_Reth
1 / 5 (4) May 31, 2011
The waves can still disrupt cell mechanisms such as cell communication. Anything electromagnetic can cause something to go wrong and cause cancer. Especially if these waves enter the ear-hole.
Dr_Mabuse
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
What's with the depletion of uran238 in tank breaking weapons which causes a general distributed risk of cancer and was starting in massive use in the first Gulf war 1991 ?
Why are therefore so few studies done ?
210
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2011
only that engineers must quickly develop a way in which they can be made less harmful. In the meantime, the benefits outweigh the cancer if you ask me.

THERE! THAT is the REAL problem! The satisfaction of immediacy and fulfillment of a positive, reinforced emotional need trumps science (some who are less kind would say, 'common-sense') every time. No matter how much you love your ring tone, pictures, TV, porn, talk/talking...you WILL hate the expense and pain of cancer/especially brain cancer in lost wages, time, weight, and the pain of the disease. Telling you this now just invites an argument but I have to say something now before it is too late to say anything. Yes, science will find a solution please be around to use it!
word-to-ya-muthas
skitterlad
1 / 5 (3) May 31, 2011
These scientists are garbage!!! You are Jersey Shore Garbage!!!

How many studies do they have with mice and cell phone radiation.

Make the mice genetically identical.

Put a bunch of 24/7 actively transmitting cell phones around mice in some cages, have another batch of mice in a RF isolated chamber. The cell phone usage would be equivalent to using 6 cell phones 24/7 right next to your head.

Take detailed MRI's every year on both batches and check the brains. You don't even have to do a histological analysis. Cancer will always show up in an MRI. If it doesn't, it was nothing to worry about.

Does anyone have links to pubmed articles with research like this? Please post!!!
plasticpower
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2011
You are probably at a higher risk of getting cancer when using Febreze or toothpaste than you are using a cell phone. These days most people don't talk as much as before, at least not in the same way as people used to with their phones glued to their faces.
fixer
1 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2011
And yet, Cancer is on the rise.
Why is it assumed that the phone has to be next to your head to cause Cancer?
At any time you are surrounded by dozens (hundreds?)of cellphones all active and bathing you in radiation so someone explain to me how this doesn't affect the metabolism?
ealex
4 / 5 (4) Jun 01, 2011
yeah cancer is on the rise because we can't stop shoving carcinogens into our face and we don't have the collective balls to hold those who dump them into our air, oceans, forests and rivers properly accountable. the cancer we are getting is essentially largely a consequence of our voracious appetite for STUFF, of mass and for that matter unsustainable consumption.

As for this article is is effectively NON NEWS and completely pointless since "Anything is a possible carcinogen" according to mr Berry. So this brings absolutely nothing new, it's just a headline that draws attention without any new information behind it so I'll gladly 1/5 it.
Javinator
not rated yet Jun 01, 2011
Maybe the fear will drive cell phone prices down.

One can only hope.
sstritt
3 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2011
Why is it assumed that the phone has to be next to your head to cause Cancer?

Inverse square law
Michael812
not rated yet Jun 01, 2011
Not only did Billy Meier publish a warning about this - in 1989 - he predicted cell phones (and over 100 other things/events) in...1958.

Search for: Billy Meier Foretold Cell Phone Dangers 22 Years Agoof Course.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jun 05, 2011
Epidemiological studies have recently revealed an increased risk of developing a raft of different cancers (perhaps including brain cancers) due to a lack of adequate vitamin D blood levels,which makes sense,as the American Cancer Society has been stressing the importance of the use of sunscreen products for those exposed to sunlight.Supplementation would therefore make eminent sense,as people outside of the tropics are at the greatest risk of deficiencies.
Bob_B
4 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2011
The risk for coffee drinking and eating pickles is the same as that for using the cell phone according to further reports. So, to be really risky one would have to drink a "pickled latte" while chatting on your cell phone.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2011
THERE! THAT is the REAL problem! The satisfaction of immediacy and fulfillment of a positive, reinforced emotional need trumps science (some who are less kind would say, 'common-sense') every time.
You sound as if you think this tech is optional. What individuals use it for is incidental to the necessity of developing it.

Everyone and everything of value will soon be Connected. Our physical states will be constantly monitored. This data will be analyzed to find out just what makes people sick. We will be part of an unending field study, as we are now.

Cell phone use is obviously a facet of this study; which frequencies at what powers will damage us, and what wont? We will soon know enough to design implant networks with extended functionality. Your list of titillations indicates how we are compelled to test this new tech. Early movies were very racy for the same reason. Sex and gossip sell- this has been known for 1000s of years. Smart phones enable us to indulge in both.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2011
Not only did Billy Meier publish a warning about this - in 1989 - he predicted cell phones (and over 100 other things/events) in...1958.
You mean back when we already had walkie talkies? A million people 'predicted' this tech. Meier was a hoaxer with no scientific training. He was guessing to impress people and make a living like any scheister would.

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