Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cancer and Cell phones?

The latest flap in the news is that a meta study has found an increased risk of brain cancer among people who regularly use cell phones and scary articles make great headlines for the news services.

The metastudy was done by a scientist named Leonart Hardell and has not been published yet (nor peer reviewed). However, Hardell did another similar metastudy of the research about cell phones and cancer in 2007 which is available on line.

The studies reviewed were mostly survey studies and did not control for known risks of brain cancer like Nutrasweet/aspartame. The relative risk factors in much of the research presented was less than 1.8 (has to be over 2.0 to be significant) and only in a couple, was higher like 3.x.

A bit intrigued, I went to the Environmental Health Trust Organization website to look for all this evidence they claim is available. They have safety precautions for the use of cell phones. They have videos. What they do not have any of, are actually study cites.

I watched one of the videos which presented three scientists (none of whom were biologists). The Title is: Expert EMF Workshop at San Leandro High School. It's the second video on the page. The speakers compared cell phones and cigarettes. "The ads encouraged people to smoke" said Dr. Magda Havas, showing the ad from the 1960's, "claiming more doctors smoked that brand!" Problem in logic there - in the 1960's we were only beginning to have an inkling that smoking posed serious risks. That is, now that smoking has been proven to have bad effects on health, one does not see those ads anymore.

During the video, one of the speakers showed a cutsie video of people dressed in white suits (looked like teletubby outfits) supposedly illustrating what cell phones do to our DNA (the video didn't make much sense to me).

But all of the over 30 minute presentation was devoid of any real research except the mention of Lennart Hardell, mentioned previously.

The kids who listened to the talk (looked like High School age) seemed extremely bored and totally unconvinced.

And they are not the only ones who are questioning these claims. Scientists in the UK are also questioning it, according to the BBC News which called Leonart's research, flawed.

"The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), which advises the government on safety levels, said the study "lacks statistical precision" to draw such conclusions. "

Meanwhile, Dr Lennart stated more research is needed (for which he is, undoubtedly, looking for funding which perhaps might be, at least, some of his underlying motivation for the sensational claims - people do funny things for money and scientists are definitely humans!).

Even the "green folks" say if you use the speaker phone on your cell or portable phone or text (rather than hold the phone against your head), the danger, if at all, is greatly minimized, so that seems like a good solution.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that cancer and other diseases which seem to be 'on the rise' these days, are aging diseases. At the turn of the 20th century, very few cases of cancer were diagnosed, but the average age of death was 45. And now, the average age of death is around 78-80. Oddly though, no one seems to take that aspect in consideration.

As for radiation, it has been pointed out that we receive more radiation from the sun than we do from microwaves and cell phones. We also are exposed to a lot of radiation from some of the tests routinely done like mammograms. Mammograms deliver 3 times the radiation of a chest X-ray to each breast and yet, most medical providers are still highly recommending them. (I don't do mammograms either)

I remain open to definitive research but for now, take the current cell phone fear mongering with a huge grain of salt.

No comments:

Post a Comment