Cell phones and cancer: searching for the missing link
It's no news that cell phones are
literally in every pocket – their number grows by
hundreds of millions every year. But with that comes an alarming, but yet unproven theory: what if there is a link between cell phone use and brain
cancer? A recent article by the New York Times takes a deep look at
the issue from the very first tort suit against a phone maker in the
early nineties to the latest studies. The crux of the matter? In all likelihood you shouldn't be concerned, but taking precautions wouldn't hurt. Read on to find out why.
The issue gained wider publicity after a Larry King show back in 1993, brought up by David Reynard from Florida after the death of his wife. “The tumor was exactly in the pattern of the antenna,” Reynard said. A type of brain cancer that appears in some 6,000 adults was the reason for his wife's demise and Reynard was convinced that cell phone radiation was to blame. A civil law suit followed against NEC, but the Florida Circuit Court hearing the case admitted that evidence was uncertain, while the scientific hypotheses – speculative, and eventually Reynard's claim was rejected.
A large-scale population survey seems to be the best way to determine it. One of the first studies covered 12-year period from 1990 to 2002 only to establish that age-adjusted incidence of brain cancer hasn't increased. Quite the opposite, actually, it fell to 6.5 cases per 100,000 men and women in 2002 from 7 cases in 1990, even on the background of a dramatic increase of cell phone use.
A gigantic study dubbed Interphone took on the task in 13 countries for ten years including 5,117 brain-tumor cases and 5,634 people with no brain cancer. It was backed and financed mostly by the European Union along with cell phone firms, and coordinated by the WHO. The much anticipated results showed no clear evidence, even worse – some of them were contradictory, mostly due to the fact that the respondents were asked to fill in their previous daily cell phone as per their memory.
elusive rather than direct carcinogenic effect, which might develop into a tumor after much longer period like 20 year. Non-ionizing radiation - the one coming from cellular phones or microwaves - doesn't directly damage human DNA, but has some subtle effects. Increased brain-glucose activity in the area of the brain just next to the antenna of the phone is one of them, but that's still far from brain cancer. Glucose is a suger serving as a metabolic brain fuel, but its increase could also happen as you turn on your favorite tune or if something invokes a dulcet memory. Actually, even in the case of a simple visual response the glucose burst is much more dramatic, but that in no way means that looking at objects causes cancer, according to a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
To limit the risk, though, we can always try to reduce calls to under 10 minutes or use a Bluetooth headset if we plan on spending more than an hour per day on the phone is a first step. Keeping the phone away from the body and not using it in a car without an external antenna should decrease radiation exposure. Finally, radiation hazard is higher in children, so keeping them away from using cell phones is definitely a good idea. The bottom line is that there is no conclusive evidence that cellular phones cause cancer. In the future, if companies release phone-log data, we might be closer to knowing the truth, but meanwhile the only thing left to do is exercising caution.