Cell Phones & Cancer: New Report Sends Mixed Messages

A new study from Interphone, a study group within the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a segment of the World Health Organization, says there is no increased risk of brain cancer from cell phone use … but then seems to waiver a bit in its position.

When it comes to adults, “an increased risk of brain cancer is not established from the data from Interphone,” said Dr Christopher Wild, IARC director.

But later, the study acknowledges that it found a slightly increased risk of brain tumors among those who use cell phones the most and for the longest period of time, particularly those who hold the phone to the same side of their head each time they make or receive a call.

Overall, the news is positive enough for groups like the GSM Association – which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile phone industry – to issue statements praising the lack of a concrete cell phone-cancer link.

“The overall conclusion of no increased risk is in accordance with the large body of existing research and many expert reviews that consistently conclude that there is no established health risk from radio signals that comply with international safety recommendations,” said Dr. Jack Rowley, director for research and sustainability for the GSMA. “The results reported today underscore the importance of utilizing complete and thorough data analysis before reaching conclusions.”

Like any good study, the report calls for more study.

“… observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use since the period studied by Interphone, particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk is merited,” said Wild.

Two types of brain tumors were included in the study, but for some reason, the results for two more types of tumors were not released as part of the report. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, said the study includes many more flaws, one being the fact that the test subjects only averaged two to two-and-a-half hours of cell phone use per month, when the average is about five times that number.

So read into the results what you like. It seems that we’re just as far away from a definitive answer to the question, “Do cell phones cause cancer?” than we were before.

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