WHO: Cell Phone Use Can Increase Possible Cancer Risk

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By Danielle Dellorto, CNN

May 31, 2011
(CNN) — Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

Before its announcement Tuesday, WHO had assured consumers that no adverse health effects had been established.
A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, made the decision after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

What that means is they found some evidence of increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for mobile phone users, but have not been able to draw conclusions for other types of cancers
“The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The type of radiation coming out of a cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an X-ray, but more like a very low-powered microwave oven.

“What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain,” Black said. “So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.”

Wireless industry responded to Tuesday’s announcement saying it “does not mean cell phones cause cancer.” CTIA-The Wireless Association added that WHO researchers “did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies.”

The European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies, saying cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline. The head of a prominent cancer-research institute at the University of Pittsburgh sent a memo to all employees urging them to limit cell phone use because of a possible risk of cancer.

“When you look at cancer development — particularly brain cancer — it takes a long time to develop. I think it is a good idea to give the public some sort of warning that long-term exposure to radiation from your cell phone could possibly cause cancer,” said Dr. Henry Lai, research professor in bioengineering at University of Washington who has studied radiation for more than 30 years.

Results from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer was released in 2010. It showed participants in the study who used a cell phone for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.

“Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are at a dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger.” said Black of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In February, a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, revealed radiation emitted after just 50 minutes on a mobile phone increases the activity in brain cells. The effects of brain activity being artificially stimulated are still unknown.

Neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says Tuesday’s announcement, “dealt a blow to those who have long said, ‘There is no possible mechanism for cell phones to cause cancer.’ By classifying cell phones as a possible carcinogen, they also seem to be tacitly admitting a mechanism could exist.”

Manufacturers of many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body and medical experts say there other ways to minimize cell phone radiation.

The Apple iPhone 4 safety manual says users’ radiation exposure should not exceed FCC guidelines: “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body.”
BlackBerry Bold advises users to “keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 inch (25 millimeters) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting.”

The logic behind such recommendations is that the further the phone is from the body, the less radiation is absorbed. Users can also use the speakerphone function or a wired earpiece to gain some distance.
Users can text instead of talk if they want to keep the phone away from their faces.

Finally, cell phones emit the most radiation when they are attempting to connect to cellular towers. A moving phone, or a phone in an area with a weak signal, has to work harder, giving of more radiation. So users can avoid using their cell phones in elevators, buildings and rural areas if they want to reduce their exposure, experts say.

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The largest study to date, published last year, looked at almost 13,000 mobile phone users over 10 years.

Swerdlow and colleagues analyzed its results in detail but concluded it gave no clear answer and had several methodological problems, since it was based on interviews and asked subjects to recall phone use going back several years.

Significantly, other studies from several countries have shown no indication of increases in brain tumors up to 20 years after the introduction of mobile phones and 10 years after their use became widespread, they added.

Proving an absence of association is always far harder in science than finding one, and Swerdlow said it should become much clearer over the next few years whether or not there was any plausible link.
“This is a really difficult issue to research,” said David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the study.

“But even given the limitations of the evidence, this report is clear that any risk appears to be so small that it is very hard to detect — even in the masses of people now using mobile phones.”

Swerdlow is chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection’s Standing Committee on Epidemiology. The commission is the international body, recognized by the WHO, that constructs guidelines for exposure limits for non-ionizing radiation.
Since mobile phones have become such a key part of daily life — used by many for websurfing as well as talking — industry experts say a health threat is unlikely to stop people using them.

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Friday, 1 July, 2011

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). This decision mirrors the 2001 IARC finding that extremely low frequency (electrical power lines and appliances) be classified as a 2B Carcinogen.

The IARC working group consists of 31 scientists from 14 countries and is part of the World Health Organization, its mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control. The official classification of wireless EMF as Group 2B puts wireless radiation in with 260 other substances already classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” this includes substances such as lead, styrene and the pesticide DDT.

This classification by the WHO was based on an increased risk for a specific type of malignant brain tumour called a glioma, a malignant type of brain tumor, which has been associated with use of wireless phones.The classification followed the Working Group’s evaluation of a large number of studies on radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposures to radar and microwaves in the workplace, environmental exposure to the transmissions of radio, TV and wireless telecommunication signals and exposure to wireless telephones.

Dr Jonathan Samet (University of Southern California, USA), overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”

The Working Group said that a concise report containing its main conclusions will be published in medical journal The Lancet Oncology on July 1st, 2011.

10 Ways To Avoid Cell Phone Radiation

• If you must use a cell phone use it on speaker to put distance between your brain and the “near-field plume” put out by the phone’s antenna.
• Texting is always better than talking because you don’t have to put the phone next to your head.
• All cell phones are not the same; check the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of a phone before you buy check on-line.
• Never use a cell phone with children anywhere in sight; and don’t carry cell phones in your breast pocket near the heart as wireless radiation has been proven to cause heart disruptions.
• Even when in standby mode some cell phones are not passive and occasionally send a location-tracking signal to the nearest cell tower.
• When placing a call, the phone makes the connection at high power, so count to five before putting it to your ear, and don’t press it against your head.
• Limit cell phone use in your car, since the metal cage of the passenger compartment makes the cell phone boost its power output to stay connected. Also, the radiation put out by the phone bounces around the inside of the car similar to the way a microwave oven works.
• Limit the time you spend talking on a cell phone, and don’t let children under 14 use cell phones unless it’s an emergency.
• Forward your cell phone to a land-line whenever possible.
• Be aware PDAs, Blackberry and other wireless devices all work similar to cell phones and many produce a very powerful EMF.

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Largest Cellphone Cancer Study To Date Clarifies Little

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The largest study to examine a potential link between cellphone use and cancer is already stirring up controversy, two days ahead of its actual release. After many years of ambiguous and sometimes conflicting results, the Interphone study was an attempt to provide a definitive measure of any risks associated with heavy cellphone use. But even the study’s authors spent several years arguing over how to interpret the data that came in, before finally producing a report that’s due to be published Monday evening, US time. A number of newspapers, however, have released stories on Interphone ahead of its general availability, and they suggest that the final product won’t do much to clarify the health risks.

The past decade or so has seen a number of studies published that examined the potential for a link between cellphone use and cancers of tissues in the head, such as gliomas and parotid tumors. A few of these have found potential associations between heavy cellphone use and specific tumors, but these have generally used methods that are potentially subject to issues of bias—asking a user which side of the head that they typically held their cellphone on only after cancer had been spotted on one side of the head, for example. A steady flow of reports have failed to find any indication of an increased risk at all, even as cell phone use has increased dramatically.

From the biochemical perspective, there’s no obvious mechanism for cellular radiation to cause genetic damage. As a result, the medical community had largely settled on the conclusion that there is no clear risk in the medium term, but longer-term (greater than a decade) risks could not be ruled out with the available evidence.

The Interphone study was an attempt to limit some of these ambiguities by recruiting a study population that was large enough to enable any signal of risk to rise above the statistical noise. Subjects were enrolled in 13 countries, and the whole effort was coordinated by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. The cellphone industry provided financial support for the effort, suggesting that those with a large financial interest in its outcome would be less likely to attack any indication of risk that came out of this work.

A detailed report on the recruitment of Interphone subjects and methods used for the analysis was published back in 2007, based on progress made up through 2006. Although Interphone was based on self-reported use, the plan was to get some measure of whether the self reporting was accurate, both by obtaining records from the network providers and by installing monitoring software on participants’ phones. The nature and location of cancers would be confirmed through medical records.

Despite these precautions, the authors of that paper are very much aware of the potential for bias, noting “Cases may spend time after the diagnosis of their tumour trying to understand why they have developed this disease, which might introduce a differential bias (sometimes referred to as rumination bias) in comparison with controls in recall of the amount and side of phone use.”

That’s where things stood in 2006; the long silence since has been filled with rumors that the authors themselves couldn’t reach an agreement about how to interpret the data they had.
Apparently, the silence was due to end on Monday evening, US-Eastern time, when the study was scheduled to be published. The WHO provided advanced copies to some members of the press with the understanding that they keep from reporting on it until that time. Ivan Oransky, Executive Editor of Reuters Health, has found that this limit was widely ignored; reports started appearing as early as Saturday, leading Reuters to release its own article.

We don’t have a copy of the study yet, but you can get some sense of its contents simply by scanning the headlines. For every “increased risk” and “brain cancer link,” there’s a headline with “inconclusive” or “no answer.” At the other extreme, an industry group responded with a press release that trumpets several quotes from the paper as evidence that its products are safe. Despite its promise, Interphone has apparently left us right where we started: no obvious risk, but a potential health threat cannot be completely excluded.

Based on reading a number of the stories, it appears that, overall, cell phone use was associated with a slight protection from brain tumors—only the heaviest users saw an increased risk. Both of these effects, however, seem to have been right on the edge of statistical significance, and a number of the study’s authors felt that they could probably be accounted for by the various sources of error inherent in the study design.

Perhaps more significantly, Reuters correctly points out that the study is a snapshot of the patterns of cellphone use from nearly a decade earlier now, and many things have changed significantly. Cell phone use is much, much higher, but a lot of that now involves texting or data consumption, which don’t involve the user sticking the phone next to his or her head. Improved transmission protocols have ensured that the power of the signals sent by handsets has also dropped in the intervening years. All of that means that the patterns of exposure are significantly different now than they were during the period covered by the Interphone study.

We’ll take a look at the study in more detail once it becomes publicly available. In the mean time, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll see headlines blaring about the dangers of cellphone use. All indications are that the underlying study doesn’t support those conclusions—in fact, it’s not clear that it supports any conclusions.

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A unit of the World Health Organization on Tuesday took the step of labeling the radiation emitted by cellphones as possibly cancer-causing, citing a new analysis of existing published studies.
The group, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has looked at more than 900 agents and classified more than 400 as carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic, or possibly carcinogenic to humans. The IARC has added cellphones to that last group.
“The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer,” the WHO said in a statement. “This has relevance for public health, particularly for users of mobile phones, as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.”

The organization said because there appears to be some risk, the issue needs further study.
“Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings,” said IARC Director Christopher Wild, “it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”
Naturally, the cellphone industry trade group took issue with the finding.

“Today, an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group in Lyon, France categorized radiofrequency fields from cellphones as ‘possibly’ carcinogenic based on ‘limited evidence,’” said John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association. “IARC conducts numerous reviews and in the past has given the same score to, for example, pickled vegetables and coffee.”
Concern over health issues related to cellphones and the radiation they emit have lingered since the advent of such devices, with different regulations in different geographies requiring cellphone makers to measure and disclose the amount of radiation coming from their products.

Walls noted that the study didn’t definitively conclude that cellphones do cause cancer, and said that other organizations have examined the same data and come to different conclusions.

“Based on previous assessments of the scientific evidence, the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that ‘[t]here’s no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer,’” Walls said. “The Food and Drug Administration has also stated that ‘[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cellphones with any health problems.’”

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By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) — The debate over whether or not cell phones might cause brain tumors continues, as a new international study finds a small risk among people who are heavy cell phone users or who have used them for a long time.
Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, was not involved with the latest research, but said that “the study is not conclusive that cell phones cause brain tumors.”
The study shows a correlation between cell phone use and the risk of brain tumors, Brawley said. “But this is a suggestion, it is by no means definitive,” he said.

Brawley noted there is an ongoing study bombarding the brains of mice with radio frequency radiation to see if brain tumors develop. “If that study is positive, that’s going to really tell us that cell phones are not good. If that study is negative, the debate will continue,” he said.
The latest report was published in the June 10 online edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) added cell phones to its list of things that might cause cancer. WHO said cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and placed them in the same category as the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.

For the new study, a research team led by Elisabeth Cardis, from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology at the Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, collected data on 1,229 people with brain tumors and 3,673 people without brain tumors.
People in the study were asked about how much they used their cell phones, and what phones they used.

These data are part of the Interphone Study, which is an international study of the risk of cancerous brain tumors with cell phone use that was largely funded by the Mobile Manufacturers’ Forum and the Global System for Mobile Communications, two industry groups.

The researchers found that a higher risk of developing a glioma among those who used their cell phones for 10 years or more. They also had a much smaller risk of developing a meningioma, or benign tumor.
Even with these potential increased risks, the incidence of brain tumors is fairly rare. “Brain tumor incidence rates have been flat to slightly declining over the last 20 years,” Brawley said. “That’s not consistent with brain tumors being caused by cell phones.”

“We know that cell phones kill people through accidents at a far higher rate than they would ever kill people due to brain tumors,” he added.
“There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma in long-term mobile phone users with high radio frequency exposure and of similar, but apparently much smaller, increases in meningioma risk. The uncertainty of these results requires that they be replicated before a causal interpretation can be made,” the study authors concluded.
John Walls, vice president for public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, said that “the peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices, within the limits established by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], do not pose a public health risk or cause any adverse health effects.”

In a companion study in the same issue of the journal, the same group of researchers looked at the effect of levels of radio frequency on the risk of developing brain tumors. They concluded that “while amount and duration of use are important determinants of radio frequency dose in the brain, their impact can be substantially modified by communication system, frequency band and location in the brain.”

“It is important to take these into account in analysis of risk of brain tumors from radio frequency exposure from mobile phones,” they added.
Dr. Ezriel R. Kornel, a brain and spine surgeon at Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mount Kisco, N.Y., said even though the risk is small “there is enough concern that I think cell phone usage should be limited if you are not using an ear piece or speaker phone.”
Dr. Nagy El Sayyad, an assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center and Miller School of Medicine, agreed that, despite the lack of conclusive evidence, it is better to err on the side of caution. “If people are heavy users, text rather than phone, use a land line rather than a cell phone,” he said.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

A World Health Organization panel has concluded that cellphones are “possibly carcinogenic,’’ putting the popular devices in the same category as certain dry cleaning chemicals and pesticides, as a potential threat to human health.

The finding, from the agency’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, adds to concerns among a small but growing group of experts about the health effects of low levels of radiation emitted by cellphones. The panel, which consisted of 31 scientists from 14 countries, was led by Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Southern California and a member of President Obama’s National Cancer Advisory Board.

The group didn’t conduct any new research but reviewed numerous existing studies that focused on the health effects of radio frequency magnetic fields, which are emitted by cellphones. During a news conference, Dr. Samet said the panel’s decision to classify cellphones as “possibly carcinogenic” was based largely on epidemiological data showing an increased risk among heavy cellphone users of a rare type of brain tumor called a glioma.

Last year, a 13-country study called Interphone, the largest and longest study of the link between cellphone use and brain tumors, found no overall increased risk, but reported that participants with the highest level of cellphone use had a 40 percent higher risk of glioma. (Even if the elevated risk is confirmed, gliomas are relatively rare and thus individual risk remains minimal.)

Most major medical groups, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, have said the existing data on cellphones and health has been reassuring. For years, concerns about the health effects of cellphones have been largely dismissed because the radio frequency waves emitted from the devices are believed to be benign. Cellphones emit nonionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancers. Scientists have said repeatedly that there is no known biological mechanism to explain how nonionizing radiation might lead to cancer or other health problems.

The W.H.O. panel ruled only that cellphones be classified as Category 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic to humans, a designation the panel has given to 240 other agents, including the pesticide DDT, engine exhaust, lead and various industrial chemicals. Also on the list are two familiar foods, pickled vegetables and coffee, which the cellphone industry was quick to point out.

“This I.A.R.C. classification does not mean cellphones cause cancer,’’ John Walls, vice president for public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry group, said in a statement. Mr. Walls noted that both the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have concluded that the weight of the scientific evidence does not link cellphones with cancer or other health problems.

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