Cellphones vs cancer risk - WHO press release

  • Medical
  • Thread starter Borek
  • Start date
  • #1
Borek
Mentor
28,507
2,934
WHO press release "IARC CLASSIFIES RADIOFREQUENCY ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS AS POSSIBLY CARCINOGENIC TO HUMANS"

The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. The evidence from the occupational and environmental exposures mentioned above was similarly judged inadequate.
I understand they are being cautious, but for me this is coming way too close to throwing kid with a bath water.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
176
"the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."
This doesn't seem like big problem. It all boils down to nothing more than using a headset instead of holding the phone directly against one's ear.

By the same token, there was a time when X-rays were used to fit shoes.
 
  • #3
russ_watters
Mentor
19,791
6,193
Well the kid could grow up to be the next Hitler. Better safe than sorry.

This is very bad: crackpots live for this sort of thing. They got a ton of mileage from some government agency just looking at cold fusion. This is the new cancer-causing microwaves and power lines hoax/hysteria.
 
  • #4
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
176
Well the kid could grow up to be the next Hitler. Better safe than sorry.

This is very bad: crackpots live for this sort of thing. They got a ton of mileage from some government agency just looking at cold fusion. This is the new cancer-causing microwaves and power lines hoax/hysteria.
In fact this claim has been disputed and debated for years but the evidence seems to be growing that there is a potential problem - that according to the WHO.

What I find far more ridiculous is a reckless disregard for human health based on a fear of crackpots.
 
  • #5
290
2
IARC says that cell phone radiation is "possibly carcinogenic to humans"

Maybe the hysteria over cell phones and brain cancer wasn't as ridiculous as it seemed. The http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf" [Broken] has done a review of the literature and says that "radiofrequency electromagnetic fields [are] possibly carcinogenic to humans" (the other 3 possible ratings being "probably not carcinogenic", "probably carcinogenic" and "carcinogenic"). As far as I know, no one has actually proposed a plausible mechanism, but I suppose that the press release is less than reassuring.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #6
516
63


Maybe the hysteria over cell phones and brain cancer wasn't as ridiculous as it seemed. The http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf" [Broken] has done a review of the literature and says that "radiofrequency electromagnetic fields [are] possibly carcinogenic to humans" (the other 3 possible ratings being "probably not carcinogenic", "probably carcinogenic" and "carcinogenic"). As far as I know, no one has actually proposed a plausible mechanism, but I suppose that the press release is less than reassuring.
It's being discussed in the Biology forum. Cell phone radiation has been placed in the same group of possible carcinogens is carpentry and joinery, tea and pickled vegetables.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #8
russ_watters
Mentor
19,791
6,193
In fact this claim has been disputed and debated for years but the evidence seems to be growing that there is a potential problem - that according to the WHO.
What you - and many others - are missing is the concept of signal to noise ratio. The more research done, the more signal is generated, but you ignore the fact that more noise is generated as well and the overall s/n ratio remains unchanged. This is exactly the same as the problem with "UFO research".

The WHO did not do any of their own studies, they just looked at studies that already existed. No, nothing has changed form last week. No new evidence was presented - much less "growing evidence"
What I find far more ridiculous is a reckless disregard for human health based on a fear of crackpots.
In order to care (or not care) about a health risk, there first has to be a health risk. The WHO didn't even say that there was! Don't try to paint me as uncaring when I don't recognize a non-existent risk. Heck: I'm a cell phone user too.

Personal attacks are unwarrented here.

A good op-ed:
Why this new fear of a device we're been using for decades? A new study, perhaps? New information that just made its way to the unsuspecting masses? Nope. Earlier this week, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, convened 31 experts in France who put their heads together and concluded that cellphones are "possible carcinogens" in the same way that exhaust from cars might be cancer-provoking....

So how frightened should we be with this new lurking carcinogen with the pleasant and seemingly innocuous (but ultimately sinister!) ring tones? Answer: We should not be frightened at all....

Cellphones require further study because they do emit low-level radiation (in between radio waves and microwaves), but these waves have never been shown to cause or be associated with an increased incidence of cancer.

Consider the source. Nothing has changed overnight, and the WHO is famous for generating hype and hysteria. Remember, this is the same WHO that recklessly predicted in 2005 that H5N1 bird flu could kill 90 million people, when it was found almost entirely in birds. I mean, I suppose it's true that it could kill 90 million people. Though I suppose it's also true that an asteroid could eliminate this planet next Wednesday, just after lunch.

This is the same WHO that inflamed and accelerated the swine flu scare in 2009, quickly elevating it to pandemic status and authorizing the production of millions of doses of vaccine that ultimately had to be discarded....

More than two dozen studies done in Europe, the United States and New Zealand have not established a definitive link between cellphones and brain cancer. Of course the results are limited because they rely on survey data, which is the weakest kind of science. One study showed a possible association between heavy cellphone use and cancer, but the study was severely limited because it questioned people who already had brain cancer and asked them to try to recall how frequently they had used their cellphones.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-06-03-Ignore-WHO-fearmongering-over-cellphones_n.htm
 
  • #10
Evo
Mentor
23,153
2,771
This study using a PET scanner shows "The PET scan showed about a 7 percent increase in glucose metabolism in brain regions nearest to the cell phone antenna."

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown...rain-activity-but-health-effects-unknown.html
And according to the article that could be a good thing.

They found that the parts of the brain nearest the phone's antenna were about 7 percent more active when the phone was on and receiving a call then when it was off. That's roughly equivalent, Volkow said, to the amount of activity seen in the language areas of your brain while you're speaking.

But the researchers caution that their study does not prove anything about whether cell phones cause cancer or other health issues.

"Results of this study provide evidence that acute cell phone exposure affects brain metabolic activity. However, these results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects (or lack of such effects) from chronic cell phone use," they wrote.

In fact, said Volkow, much more research needs to be done to figure out whether the brain activity changes she showed are harmful. And if they're not, she said, it's even possible that the type of radiation emitted by cell phones could be used therapeutically (like transcranial magnetic stimulation, used to treat depression.)
 
  • #11
4
0
Every once in a while, I find something good about getting older. And this is one of those times. Based on the minimal number of calls I make, I guess it would take 20 years, or more, for me to suffer any adverse effects from cell phone use. And by then, I will likely be dead, or just too old to care, anyway. Therefore, I find little to worry about, when it comes to the "radiofrequency electromagnetic fields" associated with cell phones. :smile:
 
Last edited:
  • #12
fluidistic
Gold Member
3,674
112
Now someone has to explain me as why EM waves with so low energy (cannot even damage DNA) can cause a cancer; even with high intensity. These waves might increase a very very bit your brain temperature -water heat capacity being high- but so can do lots of other things like doing sport, taking a shower, etc.
If there's no physical reason to explain the conclusion that cell phone possibly can cause cancer, I won't believe it. We're not dealing with "unknown" physics as far as I know.
 
  • #13
2,685
22
I assume all the studies that show a rise in cases of the various cancers have allowed for advances in our ability to detect them and other such factors?
 
  • #14
Evo
Mentor
23,153
2,771
I assume all the studies that show a rise in cases of the various cancers have allowed for advances in our ability to detect them and other such factors?
I don't beleive there have been any studies that found an actual link to cancer.
 
  • #15
863
4
The truth is the issue is always going to get highly political, even among scientists and engineers, especially when cell phones are a multi-billion dollar industry.

I do know that IEEE has a maximum power rating for cell phone signals, that basically all commercial phones operate at that limit, and that the limit is for "use at 6 inches from the head", which no one does.
 
  • #16
Evo
Mentor
23,153
2,771
My daughter only uses hers for texting, so her thumbs are at risk?
 
  • #17
fluidistic
Gold Member
3,674
112
My daughter only uses hers for texting, so her thumbs are at risk?
You'll get an answer within 10 years. The answer will be "possibly at risk" XD
 
  • #18
48
0
Now someone has to explain me as why EM waves with so low energy (cannot even damage DNA) can cause a cancer; even with high intensity.
You are absolutely right that available background knowledge strongly favors a rejection of a causal link between cellphones and cancer.

However, you have a very simplistic view of cancer; the last 20 years or so of cancer research has shown that it is more to it than merely DNA damage; epigenetics, metabolic changes and many other mechanism that are not really elucidated yet that play crucial roles in carcinogenesis.
 
  • #19
alt
Gold Member
202
0
What you - and many others - are missing is the concept of signal to noise ratio. The more research done, the more signal is generated, but you ignore the fact that more noise is generated as well and the overall s/n ratio remains unchanged. This is exactly the same as the problem with "UFO research".

The WHO did not do any of their own studies, they just looked at studies that already existed. No, nothing has changed form last week. No new evidence was presented - much less "growing evidence" In order to care (or not care) about a health risk, there first has to be a health risk. The WHO didn't even say that there was! Don't try to paint me as uncaring when I don't recognize a non-existent risk. Heck: I'm a cell phone user too.

Personal attacks are unwarrented here.

A good op-ed: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-06-03-Ignore-WHO-fearmongering-over-cellphones_n.htm
There was a day too, when smoking was apparently good for you, and no WHO studies said asbestos in building products was deadly.

Surely, with cell phones, it is better to err on the side of caution ?

Here in Aus we have the highest use of cell phones in the world - and many young people, particularly teen / early 20's girls are showing up with tumours in their heads just where the phone goes. There's one of our leading brain surgeons (Dr Teo if I recall correctly) who is quite alarmed at this and is constantly cautioning all about the possible, indeed likely risks.

I personally think it's a great problem, and that in future decades, problems will manifest that will be worse than tobacco, asbestos, etc.

On a related note, just to show how opinions and 'the science' can differ, and coincidentally, we just had the following story in our '60 Minutes'

http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/8257129/the-toxic-truth [Broken]

It's about the chemical BPA in plastic drinking vessels - particularly babies bottles. Canada has banned it, USA has banned it .. in fact, your President Obama made some direct comments in relation to it. But here in Aus, we continue to use it .. the science says it's harmless, apparently. So why has USA and Canada banned it then ? Erring on the side of caution I suppose, when peoples health, indeed lives are concerned.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #21
Chi Meson
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
1,789
10
Regardless of what the risk may be, doesn't anyone recognize how empty this statement is?
The WHO has obviously been studying the comments beneath Youtube videos.
 
  • #22
918
16
The WHO has obviously been studying the comments beneath Youtube videos.
That might be the truest statement anyone has ever made.
 
  • #23
russ_watters
Mentor
19,791
6,193
There was a day too, when smoking was apparently good for you, and no WHO studies said asbestos in building products was deadly.

Surely, with cell phones, it is better to err on the side of caution ?
Taking action based on a nonexistent risk is not caution. It's fear of your own shadow.

It sounds like you're suggesting that since we don't know whether anything kills you we should assume everything can kill you. If you really wanted to take that approach, you'd stay balled-up in the fetal position under your basement stairs until you died of thirst!
Here in Aus we have the highest use of cell phones in the world - and many young people, particularly teen / early 20's girls are showing up with tumours in their heads just where the phone goes. There's one of our leading brain surgeons (Dr Teo if I recall correctly) who is quite alarmed at this and is constantly cautioning all about the possible, indeed likely risks.
Are you sure he's not just selling hysteria for his own personal profit? It happens (a lot). Because there are no studies that show what you are suggesting.
I personally think it's a great problem, and that in future decades, problems will manifest that will be worse than tobacco, asbestos, etc.
I think it is unlikely.
On a related note, just to show how opinions and 'the science' can differ, and coincidentally, we just had the following story in our '60 Minutes'

http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/8257129/the-toxic-truth [Broken]

It's about the chemical BPA in plastic drinking vessels - particularly babies bottles. Canada has banned it, USA has banned it .. in fact, your President Obama made some direct comments in relation to it. But here in Aus, we continue to use it .. the science says it's harmless, apparently. So why has USA and Canada banned it then ? Erring on the side of caution I suppose, when peoples health, indeed lives are concerned. [emphasis added]
Incorrect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A#Studies_on_humans

You're drawing a comparison that doesn't exist. And the examples you got from that 60 minutes link are nothing more than sensationalism. Cigarettes? AFAIK, no one except a marketteer ever suggested they were beneficial. Smokers who weren't in denial have surely known they were harmful forever and scientists started measuring their harm in the 19th century. And remember, our understanding of what causes cancer has changed a lot since the days the Radium Girls licked their watch-painting brushes.

Asbestos is an intersting case. IMO, it shouldn't have been banned, but was so badly mismanaged for a century, it was just easier to ban it than deal with it. We use a ton of toxic substances in our everyday lives - our electronics and light bulbs in particular are just filled with them. What matters is how we use them and if we come into contact with enough of them to matter. I have a highly toxic substance suspended over my head right now. Am I worried? Of course not.

Asbestos killed a huge number of shipyard workers from WWII. About 100,000 out of 4.3 million (from the wiki). 100,000 is a big number, and so asbestos was banned. But consider what they were doing. They were building ships. Can you think of a more claustrophobic job? Were those shipyard workers wearing ventilators? (probably not). Were the ships themselves well ventilated? (probably not). If you've ever worked in your attic, you know what it is like cutting and moving around insulation in a confined space. It's nasty and you wear a ventilator. There are a host of related asbestos workers in the same boat, so to speak.

So where would we be today with asbestos if it had been properly dealt with back then? What if they had made more of an effort to ventilate ships and had the workers wear PPE? Perhaps it still would have killed a few people and we'd have to scale back its use, but if it killed 10 or 100 shipworkers instead of 100,000, would we still use it to insulate houses, but not ships? How about for oven mitts and brake pads? Or would we just change the manufacturing to mitigate the risk of exposure? Say by jacketing the asbsestos? Then you could work with it and around it and not worry about being exposed to it: kinda like we do with our computers and light bulbs. OSHA was created in 1970. Would we have had the asbestos problem if it had been created in 1920?

The wiki on the history is a sad chronicle of ignoring the risks of asbestos for a long time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asbestos#History_of_health_concerns_and_regulation

Now the pendulum has swung the other way: now instead of ignoring well-established risks, we have people suggesting we take action against nonexistent ones. While this won't kill anyone, it will disrupt our lives and from a scientific standpoint is no better.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #25
russ_watters
Mentor
19,791
6,193
Interesting list. They have a bunch for asbestos on there, too.
 

Related Threads on Cellphones vs cancer risk - WHO press release

  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
4K
Replies
11
Views
19K
  • Last Post
Replies
24
Views
5K
Replies
42
Views
9K
Replies
3
Views
821
Replies
6
Views
969
Replies
3
Views
3K
Replies
8
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
Top