Monday, October 19, 2009

Link Uncovered Between Cell Phone Use and Brain Tumors

Since the introduction of cell phones in the 1980s, there has been speculation that the radiation from these electronic marvels might pose an increased risk of cancer. There have been a number of studies, but none provided conclusive evidence one way or the other. Even a recent review of previously published findings on the subject turned up no overall link. But when the researchers reanalyzed the most scientific of the studies, they found “there is reason for concern.”

For the study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and a consortium of Korean institutions examined 465 articles published in major journals, focusing on 23 case-controlled studies involving a total of 37,916 patients for their final analysis. Some of the patients (controls) had no history of brain tumors, while the others had been diagnosed with brain tumors.

Considered as a group, the studies showed no link between cell phone use and brain tumors. But separated into subgroups and reanalyzed, eight of the “higher quality” studies, most conducted by the same research team in Sweden, found cell phone users to have a 10 to 30 percent increased risk for developing a brain tumor, compared with people who rarely or never use them. The risk was highest among those who had used cell phones for a decade or longer.

The other subgroup of 15 studies that were not as high-quality and which were supported with mobile phone industry funding, found either no association, a negative association, or a protective effect.

“Clearly, there is a risk,” said study coauthor Joel M. Moskowitz, director of the UC Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health, noting that more research is needed to arrive at a more definitive conclusion. “It seems fairly derelict of us as a society or as a planet to just disseminate this technology to the extent that we have without doing a whole lot more research of the potential harms and how to protect against those harms,” he said. “The stakes are really high and there seems to be suggestive evidence that you better be careful about this, especially in children, who have developing tissue and smaller brain and skull sizes.” Moskowitz also believes there is a potential for harm to other areas of the body; the genitals, for instance, when the phone is carried in the pocket.

Other experts share Moskowitz’s concern. In March 2008, Dr. Vini Khurana, a neurosurgeon who has published more than 30 scientific papers and reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of cell phones, expressed little doubt of the risk saying “there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumors.” He warned that “mobile phones could have health consequences far greater than asbestos and smoking,” pointing out that three billion people around the world now use a cell phone, which is three times the number of people who smoke—and smoking amounts to five million deaths worldwide each year.

But the mobile communications industry argues that cell phones have been shown to be safe, and should be considered so until they are shown conclusively to be unsafe. “The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk,” said John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association. “In addition, there is no known mechanism for microwave energy within the limits established by the (U.S. Federal Communications Commission) to cause any adverse health effects,” he said. “That is why the leading global health organizations such as the American Cancer Society, (U.S.) National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration all have concurred that wireless devices are not a public health risk.”

However, last month at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the potential cancer risks of cellular phones, National Health Institutes of Health associate director, John Bucher, told the Senators the nation faces a “potentially significant health problem” but said that so far, studies have been inconclusive. Bucher suggests that, as a precautionary measure, regular cell phone users might want to use a headset instead of holding the phone next to their head.

1 comment:

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