By Janet Fang
Posting in Cancer
The World Health Organization placed cellphone use under the category of "possibly carcinogenic for humans." The evidence for brain cancer is suggestive, but doesn't cover 3G and beyond.
Also on that list of 266 items: traditional Asian pickled vegetables, coffee (for bladder cancer), carpentry, occupational exposure to dry cleaning and firefighting, magenta dyes, DDT, and engine exhaust.
WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that it can’t rule out the possibility that heavy cellphone use may increase brain cancer risk. And while the debate has been raging for as long as most of us can remember, IARC’s formal opinion is a new level of consensus and certainly feels influential.
The committee of 31 experts convened during the last week of May to assess potential carcinogenic hazards associated with exposure to ‘radiofrequency electromagnetic fields,’ which includes radio transmitters, microwaves, as well as wireless telephones.
“We found some threads of evidence telling us how cancer might occur,” says IARC chair, Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California. “But I think there are acknowledged gaps and uncertainties.”
Their concerns emerged largely from the Interphone study, coordinated by IARC using data from 1997 to 2003. It compared reported cellphone use of brain-cancer patients in 13 countries with that of people without cancer.
According to the report published last year, it saw “no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma,” common brain tumors. EXCEPT, however, in those reporting the heaviest use: “There were suggestions” that people who made 30-minute calls every day for 10 years had a 40% higher risk of glioma.
The ‘non-ionizing’ radiation emitted by cellphones is not strong enough to break chemical bonds in DNA molecules – the mechanism by which ionizing radiation causes cancer. There are many studies addressing a possible carcinogenic mechanism, but very little of the published evidence is strong.
The COSMOS survey is currently looking to recruit 250,000 cellphone users across 5 European countries. It’ll monitor the health of participants over the next 20–30 years and compare this to their level of cellphone use.
Samet notes that there are almost 5 billion cellphone subscriptions worldwide, and "we anticipate an ever larger population that is exposed for longer and longer."
It’s probably more important to note that cellphone technology has developed rapidly since 2003. The 3G devices emit 100-fold less radiation than the GSM generation that dominated during the years that Interphone collected data, according to IARC scientist Robert Baan.
And for another example, the other study that influenced IARC’s opinion – by researchers at Örebro University in Sweden – found that the risk of the brain cancer acoustic neuroma quadrupled in users of analogue cellphones. But these types of phones were phased out in 2000 in the UK and 2008 in the US.
Image by andalusia via morgueFile
Jun 3, 2011
Why do we always think only of cellphones in relation to cancer? When we consider the amount of electromagnetic energy we have become subject to over the last few years.....TV. radio, radar, satellite transmissions, local networking, et al, they must be a miniscule addition, albeit held close to the body.
When talking about such a serious issue as whether or not cell phone use may possibly cause brain tumors it is imperative that we stick to the facts and do not overstate them. The IARC panel has not yet published its rationale for its recent decision. The publication is scheduled for July 1, 2011 in Lancet. We do know that they reviewed the literature to date, including 4 studies that have not yet been published, but have been accepted for publication in peer reviewed journals. The highly mentioned 40% increased ???risk??? of developing a glioma in heavy, long term users, comes from the controversial Interphone study published a year ago. The authors of this study conceded that statistical biases and errors limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn from these analyses and prevent a causal interpretation. In fact it was the publication of this study one year ago that prompted both the WHO and the FDA to declare that there was NO definitive link to the use of cell phones and the development of brain tumors. Why this weak data is now the cornerstone of the recent WHO announcement is unclear. What is known is that at least four of the authors of this 10-year, 25 million Euro, controversial trial, were also members of this WHO panel. You do the math.
That of course is the issue. The strength of signal is directly related to you distance from the source and holding the transmitting antenna of a cell phone next to your ear/brain is exposing you to a maximum strength of signal.