Cell phone cancer risks

A research arm of the World Health Organization has resurrected the specter of the association of cancer with cellphones, classifying the use of the mobile devices as possibly carcinogenic, much as it has categorized alcohol, coffee, pesticides, engine exhaust, and even working the graveyard shift. The announcement was made on May 31 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) after a panel of scientists from 31 countries reviewed dozens of studies on the issue.

A weeklong roundtable, in which the team of international IARC experts looked closely at studies on electromagnetic radiation found in cell phones, microwaves, and radar, the panel determined that “there was limited evidence cell phone use was linked to two types of brain tumors and inadequate evidence to draw conclusions for other cancers.” The panel’s chairman, Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, said that the group “found some threads of evidence telling us how cancers might occur, but there were acknowledged gaps and uncertainties.”

In its reporting on the IARC announcement, Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, was quoted as warning that any potential dangers from cell phones may come many years down the road. “The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” said Black. Noting that the radiation emitted by cellphones is similar to that used to power a microwave oven, Black explained, “What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. 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.”

Since cellphones have become the primary electronic communication device for an estimated five billion people worldwide, it is improbable that undocumented health concerns will cause many individuals to stop using them. Experts recommend using earpieces or protecting themselves with a shield designed to reduce the effects induced by electromagnetic fields.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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