Cell phones possibly cancer-causing - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cell phones possibly cancer-causing


The World Health Organization announced Tuesday the radio frequency waves found in cell phones may be "possibly carcinogenic to humans." This comes after previously saying there is no link between cell phone use and cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, said Tuesday limited evidence exists of increases in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancers for mobile phone users.

Over the course of one week, a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries considered hundreds of published scientific articles on the effects of cell phones. Based on those articles, they released the WHO STATEMENT.

Dr. Thomas Lally is a radiation oncologist at the Finley Hospital's Wendt Regional Cancer Center. He has seen the type of cancer the WHO mentioned in its announcement.

"Glioma is a malignant brain tumor," Lally said. "They can be a high-grade or a low-grade brain tumor. It's the most common."

He said Tuesday's findings about a possible link between radio frequency electromagnetic fields and cancer isn't cause for alarm.

"I think you need to exercise caution. It's like anything in excess," he said. "People who walk around with cell phones plastered to their heads for 15 minutes are generating some heat from those cell phones."

He said mobile phones operate using those radio frequency waves, which generate heat.

"It's somewhere between a television and a microwave," Lally said. "Is that sufficient to cause, for instance, brain tumors? I don't know that that's known at all."

The WHO agrees the link is far from proven.

Dr. Jonathan Samet with the University of Southern California was the chairperson of the IARC's working group.

"We found some threads of evidence, telling us about how cancers might occur, but I think there are acknowledged gaps and uncertainties," Samet said.

CTIA is the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry.

Spokesperson John Walls released a STATEMENT after Tuesday's IARC announcement.

"This IARC classification does not mean cellphones cause cancer," Walls wrote. "The IARC working group did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies."

He also said the FCC and FDA have not declared any link between cell phone use and cancer.

The WHO, however, said Tuesday's announcement is really just another step in this discovery process.

"Of course, we think that, moving forward, further research will be needed," Dr. Samet said.

Still, the Finley Hospital's Dr. Lally said, it doesn't hurt to be cautious now.

"Children would be more of a concern in my mind, because the growing brain tissue would be more subject to damage," he said, "so I would limit children's exposure, because we just don't know at this point in time."

If people want to change their cell phone usage habits, he said, they can hold the phone farther from their head or use a headset while talking.

There is no conclusive proof of the link between cell phone use and brain cancer, but experts say the possible link is worth investigating, especially as the number of mobile phone users grows.

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