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New Study Calms Cellphone Cancer Fears - for Now

By Richard Adhikari
Dec 4, 2009 12:27 PM PT

Could heavy cellphone users be more likely to suffer brain cancer? Scientists and researchers aren't sure, but they're locked in debate.

New Study Calms Cellphone Cancer Fears - for Now

Results of a study published by Scandinavian researchers in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Thursday indicated there doesn't seem to be any such link between cellphones and the incidence of brain tumors.

However, the World Health Organization insists there may in fact be such a link.

Looking Into Cellphones and Cancer

The Scandinavian study looked at the incidence of glioma and meningioma in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden from 1974 to 2003 using data from national cancer registries.

During this time, nearly 60,000 men and women, ages between 20 and 79, were diagnosed with brain tumors out of a population of 16 million adults. No change in incidence trends was observed between 1998 and 2003, the study concluded.

Gliomas are brain tumors arising from glial cells, which act as scaffolding and glue to hold, nourish, insulate and protect neurons. They are often aggressive and malignant. Synthetic scorpion venom has been used in the treatment of gliomas.

Meningiomas are the most common primary tumors affecting the central nervous system. Most of them grow slowly and are benign. Meningiomas grow from the central layer of the three membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

WHO Warns About Cellphones

The researchers who put out the Scandinavian study warned that it was inconclusive. For one thing, it may not have covered a long enough timeline, they said. For another, they pointed out that they had only looked at the records of people with cancer and had not studied raw data on patients. They suggested more research is needed.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says long-term cellphone usage may be linked to some cancers, according to an Octoeber report in the UK's Daily Telegraph. This is based on the findings of a 10-year-long WHO study in which researchers interviewed nearly 13,000 people in 13 countries. The study was conducted between 2000 and 2004. The WHO will release more findings by the end of the year.

Children's use of cellphones should be restricted, and exposure can be reduced by limiting use and employing hands-free kits, suggested Elisabeth Cardis, who headed up the study.

Other Grim Findings

In November, the National Brain Tumor Society published a study asserting there's evidence people who use cellphones for more than 10 years are up to 30 percent more likely to develop brain tumors than people who use them less frequently.

The study, conducted by the Korean Meta-Analysis Study Group and the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California at Berkeley, was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. It was an analysis of several previous studies conducted over a 10-year period.

There's fear within the medical community of a link between cellphone usage and cancer, according to the National Research Center for Women and Families. The Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Ronald Herberman, warned his staff in July 2008 that the risks from cellphone radiation may be higher than thought previously, the Center's Web site notes. He advised them to restrict their usage.

The study shows no increase in either of two kinds of brain tumors during the informative time period after cellphones were introduced, said Michael J. Thun, vice president emeritus of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society. "What is clear is that the radio frequencies emitted by cellphones are not strong enough to damage DNA," he told TechNewsWorld. "While several other mechanisms have been theorized as causing cell changes, those need to be investigated by a high-level scientific group."

The study also does not answer questions about cellphone usage for longer than five to 10 years, Thun pointed out. Health authorities, he said, should continue monitoring any potential effects on users' wellbeing. "In the meantime, those who wish to reduce exposure can take simple steps to do so, including using hands-free devices like earphones that allow the phone to be held away from the ear," Thun added.


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