By Nikki Buskey
HOUMA — News that radiation from cellphones could cause brain cancer isn’t getting local doctors to hang up their mobile devices. But there are steps you can take to reduce your risk if you’re worried about the link.
The World Health Organization announced last week that it is including cellphones in the same cancer-risk category as engine exhaust, lead, coconut oil and coffee.
Things like cigarette smoke, which are certain to cause cancers, are listed at a top level of concern.
Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center at Terrebonne General Medical Center, said the announcement doesn’t mean there’s a definite link.
“The evidence they have is not definite,” Long said. “They cannot conclusively say it does or it doesn’t, but there is some evidence that raises the possibility.”
Deepak Awasthi, a staff physician at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, said he’s been a neurosurgeon for 20 years and hasn’t found a link between cancer and cellphone use.
“We still don’t know what causes tumors,” Awasthi said. “Something happens in the genes that leads to tumor growth, whether it’s something we’re born with or something that’s triggered by our environment.”
The World Health Organization study found some evidence of an increase in malignant and benign brain tumors in mobile-phone users.
Radiation can be a scary word, Long said, but you have to understand the type of radiation emitted by cell phones. It is non-ionizing type, different from the radiation emitted by X-ray machines or radiation therapy. Cell-phone radiation is more the kind that comes off microwave ovens.
Most Courier and Daily Comet readers said the possible link between cancer and cellphones wouldn’t make them change their mobile habits.
Dana Aucoin, 41, of Thibodaux said she started texting more and using her speaker phone before the news broke.
“Nowadays it seems like just about everything we come in contact with is linked to some form of cancer,” said Wayne Beasley, 35, of Kenner.
Donna Outlaw-Plank, a Walker resident, said she’s more aware of how often she has her cell phone at her side.
“When I heard a doctor speak of sleeping with them less than 5 feet away from you all night, it got me to thinking. I now keep my cell on a chest of drawers instead of my night stand,” Outlaw-Plank said. “It also makes me think of where it is when I’m in my car — it’s less than 5 feet away.”
Long suggests residents talk to their doctors if they’re concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer.
“We’re all frustrated because we just don’t know. More research is needed, and I don’t think there’s going to be any new or definite research in the near future,” Long said.
If you are concerned, there are a few things you can do to minimize your exposure:
– Use a headset or an earpiece.
– Turn your cell phone off at night.
– When choosing a new phone, check the specific-absorption rate, or the amount of radio-frequency energy absorbed by the body. Many cellphone manufacturers will likely start touting lower SAR levels, Long said. The Federal Communications Commission’s SAR limit for public exposure is 1.6 watts per kilogram.
Don’t fall for radiation-shield devices that claim to block you from cellphone radiation, Long said. There’s no evidence these devices work.
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