Rethinking Healthcare

No consensus on study into cancer risks from cell phones

No consensus on study into cancer risks from cell phones

Posting in Cancer

People who only use their cell phones once in a while had a lower risk of cancer than those who never used them. Those who held phones to their ears at least 30 minutes a day for 10 years had a 40% greater chance of contracting glioma.

The Interphone study, "a series of multinational case-control studies to assess whether RF exposure from mobile phones is associated with cancer risk," is out with its latest results.

Depending on who is reading the numbers you should either stop worrying, flee in terror, shrug your shoulders or ask for more study.

(Chip Chick likes these Hello Kitty headphones. What do you think? Too sparkly?)

Say what? Here's the problem:

  • People who only use their cell phones once in a while had a lower risk of cancer than those who never used them.
  • Those who held phones to their ears at least 30 minutes a day for 10 years had a 40% greater chance of contracting glioma, the cancer that killed Ted Kennedy.

It's all going into the International Journal of Epidemiology, where it will be safe behind a pay firewall.

The Israeli member of the study team admits the results appear ridiculous on their face. If there is risk, it should show up in a large study for even limited use -- risks shouldn't go down.

Canadian researcher Jack Siemiatycki, who conducted the Quebec portion of the study, tried to blow the whistle on the whole deal. He said over-zealous ethics committees are, by forcing researchers to go through overworked doctors to get patients for study, making it impossible to get representative samples for studies on what causes cancer.

The right to privacy has trumped the right to health, he said. If the privacy laws of 50 years ago were in place today, we couldn't even prove a link between asbestos or cigarettes with cancer.

That may be one man's agenda, but the results let the GSMA Association, which represents the industry, sound an all-clear, while the BBC and Daily Mail completely contradicted one another with the same facts at hand.

Me, I'm using a  headset. Holding that little phone next to my ear hurts my elbow. Hello Kitty might save your life, or it may just make you look like a Japanese schoolgirl.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure