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Author Topic: NY times article about cell phones and brain cancer
scifibum
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article here

My mother emailed this link to me and quoted the following, asking why should we put ourselves at "high risk" (she advocates never holding a phone against the head or keeping it in a pocket near the gonads):

quote:
"The fear is that even if the individual risk of using a cellphone is low,
with three billion users worldwide, even a minuscule risk would translate
into a major public health concern.

“We cannot say with any certainty that cellphones are either safe or not
safe,” Dr. Black said on CNN. “My concern is that with the widespread use of
cellphones, the worst scenario would be that we get the definitive study 10
years from now, and we find out there is a correlation.”

Since I'm lazy, the rest of my post is my mostly unedited response to my mother.

"High risk" in this case is misleading. Even the people suggesting that there might be a link between cell phone use and cancer are saying that you might move yourself from a very low risk to a comparatively higher, but still very low risk.

I also think it's worth noting this:

"Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer."

Since no cause and effect relationship has been demonstrated, and there is no known theoretical explanation for how this cause might lead to that effect, what basis is there for fear?

You've got to realize that people have been working in close proximity to radio emitters for many decades. There's nothing substantially different about cell phone signals compared to the KUTV news broadcast. The latter comes from an emitter orders of magnitude more powerful than the transmitter that you hold next to your ear, which makes up for the difference between the inch (between phone an brain) and the dozens of feet (between broadcast towers and people working at the station).

You'd think after about a hundred years of man-made radio signals we'd know if there was a health risk.

One the one hand, you have no evidence but some fearful musing about radio waves*. On the other hand, you have something that massively benefits humanity in terms of mobility, safety, and convenience. Why would we cripple the latter because of the former? Headsets are a pain to use, and speakerphones offer nowhere near the clarity and privacy that holding the phone up to the ear provides.

*Do you know that UV rays, Gamma Rays, X-Rays, and Solar Wind are all "radiation"? You probably did. Did you know that visible light and radio waves are ALSO "radiation"? Radiation is a scary word which has some very non-scary applications. I'm pretty sure the reason people think cell phones are potentially risky is because they associate cell phone "radiation" with the kinds that are actually harmful, merely because of the word.

Where are the people worrying about the electromagnetic radiation from Light Bulbs affecting brain development? Why not the electromagnetic radiation from Oil Lamps?

I believe it comes down to this: cell phones are novel, so people think they might be dangerous. They feel more comfortable with light bulbs because they've always been there (in living memory). But I think there's EQUAL reason to think they are dangerous, at this point.

I'll eat plenty of crow if someone proves a link between cell phone usage and brain tumors, and the risk is somewhat comparable to the risk of, say, breathing. Until then, I'm not going to alter my lifestyle due to fear of unproven risks.

BTW, are you SURE that using hair dye isn't causing Alzheimer's disease?

Do you think there MIGHT be some link between diabetes and Miracle Whip?

Happy Days.

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cherrypoptart
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Does anyone else get a headache like I do when I use a cell phone too close to me?

I put it on speaker and talk from about two feet away, and I have a gaussmeter to measure EMFs to exercise some risk management, as much as practical.

Yes, I know there has got to be something wrong with me. Hypochondria if nothing else [Smile]

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DaveS
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Not that, but I have a permanent itch in my left ear from holding phones against it for years on end.
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Funean
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You're that guy who's always shouting at me from across the gulf, archa, cherry? [Smile]

I've always found the idea of any sort of invisible waves Right Next To My Brain creepy.

But it's just creepiness; I've never had Symptoms or anything. Of course I hate the dinky little things and use them rarely and briefly. I do wonder why a distinction is made between cell phones and cordless phones.

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cherrypoptart
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Oh I get a splitting headache almost immediately, and I don't if I use the speaker or the ear bud.

I did a whole report on EMFs for an environmental science class, and even refused to buy a house because our inspector said the EMFs were too high, about 6-7 mG, because of close proximity to power lines.

There is a lot of information out there. Even if the EMFs do nothing, the stress of worrying about them, for the hypochondriacs at least, can't by healthy.

My view is that there are people who can die if they eat peanut butter. And there are probably other people who get brain cancer from cell phone usage. It might be rare, but I don't want to find out if I'm one of them. Prudent avoidance as much as practical is the name of the game.

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Funean
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I see no point in ignoring obvious reactions. Who cares if others don't believe in them? You're clearly sensitive to *something* and it's surely bad for you to keep exposing yourself to it.
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HadouKen24
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It wouldn't surprise me that much if some people have problems with electromagnetic fields or radiation. That doesn't mean they'll get cancer, though. There could be explanations for this that have nothing to do with cancer.

It's known that all humans have some brain cells containing much higher than normal levels of magnetite. These "magnetocytes" may occur in higher ratios than normal in some people. If that's the case, then they might well be prone to headaches when subjected to magnetic fields that are greater than normal.

If this is the case, then some people's getting headaches when exposed to cell phones does not mean that most people will be at any greater risk at all for medical problems.

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Jesse
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Wait a minute....

Was it just proven that Cherry really does have more rocks in his head than the average person? [Smile]

I'm sorry, someone had to do it.

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cherrypoptart
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I was just thinking that made me some sort of sensitive genius or something myself...

I've got asthma too, but pretty much only around smokers. The way I explain it, my body is like a finely tuned engine that doesn't run well at all on anything but the best. I try to eat organic foods too, as much as practical.

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vulture
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quote:
Originally posted by cherrypoptart:
Oh I get a splitting headache almost immediately, and I don't if I use the speaker or the ear bud.

I did a whole report on EMFs for an environmental science class, and even refused to buy a house because our inspector said the EMFs were too high, about 6-7 mG, because of close proximity to power lines.

This is where I find these concerns a tad bizarre. The earth's magentic field gives you an EMF of around 500 mG. Adding 1% on top of that doesn't seem like much of a problem to my mind.

quote:
Prudent avoidance as much as practical is the name of the game.
That's also true - you don't risk anything extra by living in a house that isn't next to power lines (aside from it costing slightly more on average I guess).
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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
I also think it's worth noting this:

"Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer."

Since no cause and effect relationship has been demonstrated, and there is no known theoretical explanation for how this cause might lead to that effect, what basis is there for fear?

From the very next paragraph in the article:
quote:
But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can’t explain the mechanism doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones and the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.
Not enough to say that there is a problem, but enough to keep researching the question.


The good news:
quote:
Some of the research suggests a link between cellphone use and three types of tumors: glioma; cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; and acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain. All these cancers are rare, so even if cellphone use does increase risk, the risk is still very low.
I do find it interesting that someone who should be knowledgeable about the subject could say this:
quote:
That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts, including the American Cancer Society. The theory that cellphones cause brain tumors “defies credulity,” said Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.
When there are in fact studies that say this:
quote:
Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cellphone users. Also last year, a Swedish analysis of 16 studies in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed a doubling of risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma after 10 years of heavy cellphone use.

“What we’re seeing is suggestions in epidemiological studies that have looked at people using phones for 10 or more years,” says Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, an industry publication that tracks the research. “There are some very disconcerting findings that suggest a problem, although it’s much too early to reach a conclusive view.”

I could swallow "inconclusive" or "the findings are not statistically significant" or even "there is no known causal mechanism", but "defies credulity" seems a little unbelievable in the face of the statistics showing a correlation between the two. Yes, yes, yes, I do understand that correlation is not causation, but it is a clue that should be followed up on to try and determine the causal link, or lack thereof.
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cherrypoptart
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The Earth's field is DC. These other EMFs are AC. Big difference.

It's also interesting that most of the AC is at 60 Hz, and that's about the cycle of some of our body's electrical frequencies, if what I read is true.

There was also evidence that at least in sheep, EMFs can affect their melatonin levels. The latest studies I've seen seem to contradict this, however. It's all still up in the air.

This was interesting:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0CYP/is_5_109/ai_76798916/pg_12

though it didn't seem to make the EMF connection, it still examines possible biological mechanisms for EMFs, or even bright light, causing cancer through suppression of melatonin.

It's fascinating that we see this surge in sleep and auto-immune disorders as well as cancer just as we get more and more wired and connected. Could be just a coincidence. but one has to wonder...

[ June 04, 2008, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: cherrypoptart ]

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