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Cell Phone Use vs Brain Fxn Part 2

Posted Jun 03 2011 8:30am
Earlier this year, I wrote about a study looking at how cell phone use may (or may not) affect brain function.  At that time, there was some concern over a possible change (increase) in glucose metabolism that was of uncertain clinical significance.  More importantly, epidemiologic & observational studies really hadn't demonstrated any strong association.  My, how times have changed.

Earlier this week, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) , an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, those emitted by cell phones, are " possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) ".  Does this mean that we have to revert to our old wired, landline pay-phones?  Probably not quite yet.

So why the dramatic announcement?  After all, notice that no new trial results were announced, just the opinion of less than 3 dozen guys (and gals, I suppose) who spent just over a week in the south of France to analyze a heckuva lot of (old) data.  More specifically, 31 international experts from 14 countries got together for 8 days to mull over all the existing evidence on cell phone use .  In fact, here's the National Cancer Institute's response to the IARC press release.

Before you (mis)interpret the news media pronouncements as "cell phones cause cancer" - let's be clear, there's no proof of this yet - remember that there are actually 2 stronger/higher classifications than Group 2B (which includes lead, exhaust fumes & chloroform).  For instance, Group 2A consists of 59 agents that are "probably carcinogenic to humans" while Group 1 consists of 107 agents that are "carcinogenic to humans" .  In other words, there are a lot worse things as far as cancer goes.

Not only that, but there's been no dramatic spike in brain cancer cases since the development & widespread use of cell phones over the last quarter century.  In fact, only one study out of hundreds weakly associated an increase risk of gliomas with heavy cell phone use (greater than 30 minutes/day for 10 years) .  Hardly enough reason to cancel your service plan and pay several hundred dollars in fees.

If anything, I believe the real danger of cell phones results from their (handheld) use while driving, especially to/from those who text & drive.  So go make yourself a safer driver and (possibly) lower your cancer risk by using a hands-free device. And stop texting while you're driving!  By the way, if you absolutely have to text, consider using text-to-voice and voice-to-text apps rather than your thumbs.

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