Virtually everybody’s got one, and you may have even seen people with two and sometimes three…
Cell phones are everywhere, and we’re talking into them in our homes, at work, in the supermarket and in our cars. And given the number of cell phone providers, models and service stores that continue to pop up, it certainly appears that they are here to stay. In terms of numbers, there are about 330 million cell or mobile phone units in use here in the United States alone – one for each citizen.
But ever since the surge in cell phone popularity in the late 1990’s, there have been reports of people developing brain cancers as a result of heavy usage. Reports claim that cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, which can be absorbed by tissues closest to where the phone is held. This information generated enough fear to prompt many people to invest in plastic covers for their phones, expecting them to act like a barrier for the electrical waves.
It has also prompted several international bodies and governmental agencies to issue statements urging caution. In2011, a UN-sponsored, Geneva-based World Health Organization panel of 31 scientists from 14 countries classified mobile phones as “possibly carcinogenic.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is reexamining safe radiation exposure limits from phones, and the Department of Health has advised “children and young people under 16 should be encouraged to use mobile phones for essential purposes only, and to keep calls short.”
Over the years, a great deal of research has been conducted on the possible correlation between cell phone use and cancer. Several major papers have been issued on the topic in recent years, reaching very different conclusions.
The massive surge in wireless communications is naturally accompanied by a surge in radiofrequency electromagnetic fields – the very thing that emanates from wireless communication devices. And six oncology centers in Sweden say these have the potential to wreak havoc on brain cells.
A study published on October 28, 2014 in Pathophysiology asserts that long-term use of either mobile or cell phones increases the risk of developing the most common kind of brain tumor, glioma. Participants in the study who had been using a wireless phone for more than a quarter of a century had three times the risk for glioma, whereas those who began using such phones under the age of 20 had twice the risk. Those who talked for more than 1486 hours on wireless phones were also twice as likely to develop glioma compared to those who used their phones the fewest hours – less than 122 hours.
Another study, published in the International Journal of Oncology, revealed that those who began using wireless phones in their teenage years and continued to use them for at least a decade were nearly five times likelier to develop astrocytoma – a type of cancer of the brain.
Generally speaking, using these phones for more than a decade, according to the study, results in a 30 percent increased risk in malignant tumors, and a 40 percent increased risk in astrocytomas.
The study wasn’t restricted to cell phones. Cordless home phones also emit radiation, and researchers assert that long-term use of these devices results in about four times the risk of cancer, relative to those who did not use these phones. Another concern regarding cordless phones is the placement of the base stations. Emissions from the base stations of cordless phones can be potentially harmful, especially when users sleep next to them.
Yet a third study, which was conducted in 2012, showed that the rates of malignant tumors in parts of the brain closest to where people held their cell phones rose significantly in California from 1992 to 2006.
However, it should be noted that even if the odds of developing brain cancer doubled or tripled, the risk still is relatively low.
For example, in a 2012 study in the European Journal of Cancer, 5 out of 100,000 Europeans were diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor between 1995 and 2002. Even if that rate tripled – bringing the figure to 15 out 100,000 –statistically, that is still a very small number.
The primary argument advanced by members of the “not dangerous” camp is that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by phones is exceedingly weak, and hardly has enough energy to penetrate DNA.
But there is also ample statistical evidence to call into question the theory that cell phone use increases the risk of cancer. Statistically, according to this theory, the incidence of brain cancer ought to have increased proportionately over the years, given the fact that US cell phone use tripled between 2000 and 2010, according to CTIA – the Wireless Association, which represents manufacturers. And yet, according to a 2010 report in theJournal Neuro-Oncology, there is no statistical difference in the number of brain cancers in the past decade or so. That fact was confirmed by the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, which tracks US cancer cases.
Proponents of the “not dangerous” opinion have widely cited the Interphone study in 2010, which was conducted in 13 countries under the auspices of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and funded in part by cell phone companies. The study found that there was absolutely no correlation betweenany cancers and any cell phone use.
More recently, research out of the United Kingdom has reached the same conclusion. In what was dubbed the “Million Women Study,” scientists in 2013 analyzed about 800,000 women over the age of 50, over the course of seven years. Though faulted in The Washington Timesfor their methods, the UK scientists concluded that there was no association between mobile phones and brain tumors – or 18 other types of cancer. The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Around the same time, Danish scientists similarly deduced that cell phones do not pose any risk, based on data from 420,000 subjects. And last summer, a paper was published in the Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure, reporting that cell phone exposure studies from 2009 and 2014 showed no evidence of a correlation.
What About Children?
Notwithstanding the bevy of evidence that indicates no linkage between cell phones and cancer, there is still a lingering concern that children could beat greater risk. For one thing, young people will have had more exposure to cell phones than adults, overall, and with more years of use come more potential dangers.
Mostly, though, there is concern because a child’s brain tissue is more absorbent. Children absorb more radiofrequency electromagnetic fields because of their small heads, thinner skulls and higher brain conductivity, thus increasing the risk.
An analysis dubbed CEFALO which came out of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland sought to determine whether their subjects – children aged 7 to 19 diagnosed with brain tumors between 2004 and 2008 – might have been affected by cell phone use. The researchers found no such association. Likewise, a study published on July 27, 2014 in the Journal of The National Cancer Institutesurveyed children with brain tumors and found conclusively that there was no correlation. The authors state clearly, “there is no known biologically plausible mechanism [that cell phones] can disrupt DNA and lead to cancer.”
Meanwhile, here in the US, despite the Department of Health’s warnings to cell phone users, the National Cancer Institute finds no connection between cell phones and cancer. It says on its website, “Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck.”
If you are afraid about the alleged links between cell phones and brain cancer, there are ways to minimize exposure, such are paring down your usage – or even better, using a speakerphone or an old fashioned landline. Bear in mind, however, that even according to those scientists who acknowledge this link, you are still far likelier to suffer from heart disease, other cancers, respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and yes, even fatal flu.