Cell phones and brain cancer – more reason to worry

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This piece is taken from BizNews.com written by Marika Sboros

Should your cell phone technology worry about brain cancer from talking on your cell phone? Well, yes – but only if you are a very heavy user, say French scientists.

The team, from the Universite Bordeaux Segalen, led by Dr Gaelle Coureau, gives this sobering message in their latest study, published in the journal, Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It shows that the heaviest cell phone users may be at higher risk than average users of being diagnosed with brain tumours.

Heaviest use in this case was defined as people who used their mobile phone for more than 15 hours each month over five years. They were shown on average to have between two and three times greater risk of developing glioma and meningioma tumours, compared with people who used their phone for a whole lot less time.

Mobile phones are known to emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by bodily tissue closest to where the phone is held, and can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), according to the US National Cancer Institute. The amount of radiofrequency energy a cell phone user is exposed to depends on the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone’s antenna and the user, the extent and type of use, and the user’s distance from cell phone towers, the Institute says.

The French study is the latest in a vast body of research spanning years, and is not the first to point to a brain tumour risk from heavy mobile phone use. Overall, though, the Institute says 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”.

In a Reuters news report, Coureau’s team makes the point too, that even for heavy users, it is “difficult to define a level of risk, if any”, because mobile phone technology is “constantly evolving”. Add to that, “the rapid evolution of technology has led to a considerable increase in the use of mobile phones and a parallel decrease of (radiowave intensity) emitted by the phones”, the researchers say.

The Reuters report also quotes US neuroscientist Dr L Dade Lunsford saying these kinds of studies “rely on people to recall how much they have used cell phones in the past with no indication of their actual use”.

Lunsford, a distinguished professor of neurosurgery specialising in brain tumour management at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the French research, tells Reuters the new results found “no difference between regular cell users and non-users, which suggests that if there is a link, it is only applicable for people who claim to use their cell phone the most”.

Another expert quoted in the Reuters report is Dr Seung-Kwon Myung of South Korea’s National Cancer Centre, who has done extensive research into cell phone use and brain tumours, and is similarly reassuring: he says mobile phone users shouldn’t worry too much about (brain cancer) until larger, better studies have been done, and those will take at least another 10 years.

Lunsford makes the salient point in the Reuters report that the new French study will “not affect the world’s conversion to mobile phone use, which has saved more lives across the world than probably any other technology in the last 100 years”.

“The ability to communicate without land line access to report illness, injury, impending weather disasters, to access 911, fire, police has undoubtedly saved more lives than any conceivable risk of the late and as yet unverified risk of exposure to non-ionising radiation from mobile phones,” Lunsford tells Reuters.

Click here to read the 5 Tips offered to prevent cancer from cellphones on BizNews.

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