Cell Phone Cancer Link
For a number of years now health professionals and researchers have been concerned about the possible health rammifications of using mobile phones because they emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation at close proximity to the body for long periods.
Essentially there is concern that if the RF radiation is high enough it has a thermal effect that can raise body temperature and lead to health problems like headaches and brain tumors.
The research has been largely inconclusive though, so governments have tended to warn consumers that there “may be” health impacts from using these devices for long periods of time. The tricky thing is that health professionals still don’t know what the health impacts may be and small studies have only hinted that extended use of mobile phones may be linked to various cancers.
Larger meta analysis of studies and cohort studies have not found any links though, so the risk may have been over stated in the smaller studies or only certain people are at increased risk of cancer from mobile phone use.
Most of the studies that journalists report in the media which show concern over the use of mobile phones are small scale studies and not sufficient to definitively prove there is causal relationship between mobile phones and cancer.
For example a recent French study looked at people with two specific types of tumors – gliomas, which affect neural support cells, and meningiomas, which arise in the tissues surrounding the brain. They looked at the demographics for each participant (age, race, sex, lifestyle) and found a matching candidate who did not have cancer to be in the control group. Then they asked both groups about how they used their cell phones.
You can already tell the veracity of this research is in question because the numbers of participants are small (less than 500) and the people chosen for the control group are a lucky dip – they may get cell phone users, they may not. People are also unreliable when you ask them about their mobile phone usage with most people with a brain cancer tending to overstate their mobile phone usage as they look for a cause of the illness.
In the study in question, only when the researchers looked specifically at people who used their phones heavily did they find any link to cancer. But as noted above, that would most likely include more people who overestimated their use and because the study is already small, by further shrinking it we are looking at a really tiny group. A more viable approach would be to look at the raw data from phone companies which included call times and handset type.
There is generally a lack of consistency within these small studies that indicates something is most definitely wrong with the research procedure. Some indicate tumor prevalent on the side of the head where the phone is used, other say the tumor presents elsewhere. Some studies suggest more powerful phones used in rural areas caused more cancer, other studies found that people in the cities were more likely to get brain cancer from their phone.
So while the media love to report these studies, we can’t trust the veracity of small group studies. Clearly the only way to find out the real link between cell phone usege and brain cancer is to look at cancer rates and link that to individual cell phone usage from phone records and the type of exposure by phone type over many years. A research project that would require a lot of funding and the assistance of phone companies.
Of course if you are concerned about the risk of using cell phones, there are solutions including using hands free devices, using speakerphone or simply sticking with land lines!