Maureen Dowd and Gavin Newsom, both people I respect, think we need to be concerned about radiation from cell phones.
Personally, I'm more worried about radiation from flying saucers. Been thinking about lining my hat with foil.
Dowd harkens back to the time when we didn't know that sun tans and cigarettes were harmful.
Yeah, well, we did as soon as we ran some studies.
There have been many studies on cell phone radiation and cancer. The very few that suggest there may be a link look as authoritative as BP spokesman touting Big Oil's safety record.
Dowd cited "one Swedish study" that showed a 400% increase in brain tumors among people who started using cell phones as teens a decade ago. She doesn't say which Swedes did the study.
Right. How many people were in the study? How many in the control group? And just how many got cancer? Were any of them wearing aluminum foil in their hats?
If you want to see a good summary of studies about cell phone and cancer, check out Environment Health and Safety Online (ehso.org)
My summary of their summary:
Four studies concluded there may be a correlation between cell use and cancer.
-- One was done by the World Health Organization, but we have not seen the results of the study yet. Only says it may increase risk. Hostile aliens may land in my back yard, too. But we'll wait for further info.
-- Another was conducted by an Australian neurosurgeon who reviewed studies others had done and concluded there was "an increasing body of evidence" for a link. But this paper was self-published and was not peer-reviewed, so I'd give it about as much authority as my college paper on Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock." I hated that class.
-- The third, from the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, concluded that heavy cell phone users had a 3.7 X higher risk of brain tumors. But it was criticized because it required the subjects to recall how heavily they used cell phones a decade ago, at a time when anyone with brain cancer figures the cell phone caused it. The subjects may have been biased. Maybe this was the study Ms. Dowd referred to.
-- The fourth is another Swedish study. Very specific, this one. People in rural areas who use digital cell phones "may be at greater risk for brain cancer." But the authors admit their study was small and some bigger ones are needed.
Other studies have shown no cancer link. Ehso.com cited five.
-- the first was done at the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and found that cell phones may protect against Alzheimer's. Wierd. I guess if you use cell phones you'll get cancer, but at least remember that you have it.
-- Another involving four Scandinavian countries found no increased risk at all. But the researchers say their population study of 16 million people may have been too small to determine a slight increase in risk. 16 million? The study also only covered five years, and it may take longer for cancers to develop.
-- Tokyo Women's Medical University surveyed 322 brain cancer patients and 683 healthy people and found no correlation between cell use and the cancer.
-- Scientists in Denmark followed 420,000 cell phone users over 21 years. Again, no correlation.
-- A four-year British study of 966 people with brain tumors and 1,716 people withpout tumors showed no correlation.
And finally, a big meta-study involving a bunch of researchers and medical organizations, (the study is here) went through 465 articles, 23 case-control studies, involving 38,000 people to find a link. The conclusion:
"The current study found that there is possible evidence linking mobile phone use to an increased
risk of tumors from a meta-analysis of low-biased case-control studies. Prospective cohort studies
providing a higher level of evidence are needed."
So this isn't exactly comparable to our ignorance of sunbathing and smoking. Lots of studies, inconclusive results, but generally hard to find a link. So choose your own paranoia.
And one other thing should be added: If cell phones are causing cancer, nobody knows why. The radiation they produce is NOT ionizing radiation, which can cause cancer. The radio frequency cells use has never been shown to cause cancer.
Use a phone headset. Just to be safe. It's easier than the aluminum-foil route.