OCTOBER 4, 2011
OTTAWA — Health Canada released guidelines Tuesday on how cellphone users can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, despite scientific evidence it says is “far from conclusive” that cancer and cellphone use are linked.
The department recommends users limit the length of their calls, make use of text messaging or hands-free accessories and encourage children under the age of 18 to limit their usage all together. The new advice is targeted primarily at heavy users and children.
Children were mentioned specifically because they are “typically more sensitive to a variety of environmental agents,” according to Health Canada. There is also a dearth of data studying the effects of cellphone use on children.
The advice comes after a study, released in May by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, found that radio-frequency electromagnetic fields from cellphones could be “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on the increased risk for glioma, a type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.
“There are a small number of epidemiology studies that have shown brain cancer rates might be elevated in long-term/heavy cellphone users,” Health Canada said in Tuesday’s news release. “Other epidemiology studies on cellphone users, laboratory studies and animal cancer studies have not supported this association.”
Health Canada characterized the WHO’s finding of “possibly carcinogenic” as meaning that there is a limited amount of data to suggest there is a cancer link to cellphones, but there is a need for more research to reach a definitive conclusion.
The WHO study, using data from adults from 13 countries, including Canada, found “no increase of risk” of either glioma or meningioma — two types of brain cancer — associated with the use of cellphones. However, there were “suggestions” of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels.
Health Canada says the guidelines are part of an ongoing review of research looking at the health effects of radio-frequency emissions — including cellphones, radio signals and TV broadcasts. The department updated its guidelines in 2009 and the next update is expected in 2012.
Canada’s health agency said the number of cellphone users in the country grew to 24 million people at the end of 2010, up from only 100,000 in 1987.
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