Group Publishes Details on Cell Phone Cancer ConclusionsJun 24, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
We know more today about the way an international panel of scientists determined that cell phone radiation should be listed as a possible carcinogen. A report published this week in Lancet Oncology summarizes the key findings from last month’s meeting of 31 scientists organized by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
According to the report, most of the scientists on that IARC panel agreed that RF-EMFs, including those emitted by cell phones, should be considered to be "possibly carcinogenic" to humans. However, a few insisted the evidence was not strong enough.
Among the hundreds of scientific articles the panel examined as part of their investigation was the massive INTERPHONE study. Though that study found that overall, cell phone use was not associated with the higher rate of glioma, a type of brain tumor, an increased risk was seen when it focused on the heaviest users, defined as those who used the devices for 1,640 or more total hours. Glioma risk increased with elevated levels of exposure over periods of time of seven years or more.
The panel also considered a Swiss study that found that using a cell phone for more than one year led to a 30 percent increased risk of glioma. In that study, more than 2,000 hours of use was associated with a threefold increased risk.
The panel did acknowledge that both of these studies had flaws.
“Although both the Interphone study and the Swedish pooled analysis are susceptible to bias -- due to recall error and selection for participation -- the Working Group concluded that the findings could not be dismissed as reflecting bias alone, and that a causal interpretation between mobile phone RF-EMF exposure and glioma is possible," they wrote.
"Possible" means that the phones are not completely safe, according to group chair Jonathan Samet, M.D., who was interviewed about the study by Medscape Medical News.
"If patients ask, the important message is that there is a possibility of risk," Dr. Samet said.
"If anyone asks what they can do to reduce the risk, it is important to emphasize that the answers are not yet in," he continued. "But if they do want to do something, there are easy steps to take to lower exposure, such as using hands-free devices and reducing use of the phone."