Print 20 comment(s) - last by FS.. on Feb 18 at 9:41 PM

Study finds long term heavy use of cell phones does increase cancer risk

It's not uncommon that studies done on the same subject often come to vastly different conclusions; and studies on the link between increased risk of cancer and cell phone usage are no exception.

A study published last year in American Journal of Epidemiology has shown that frequent cell phone users face a 50 percent higher risk of developing certain types of tumors. Specifically the risk of developing parotid tumors is increased by 50 percent. The parotid is the largest salivary gland and is located near the jaw and ear where cell phones are typically held.

A 50 percent increased risk of cancer sounds very serious, and any increased chance of cancer should be taken seriously. However, if you stand back and look at the actual numbers the chance of getting a tumor from using a cell phone is still incredibly minute.

A study performed by Mark Kidd showed that in heavy cell phone users the risk of parotid tumors increased from 0.003 percent to 0.0045 percent.

In September of 2007 DailyTech reported that the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme published a study stating that there was no short-term link between cancer and cell phone use. The report did say that more research was needed into the association of long term cell phone use and cancer.

A study by Dr. Siegal Sadetzki showed that using a cell phone for more than 10 years does in fact raise the risk of brain cancer and notes that children are particularly at risk because of their developing skulls. Sadetzki says, “While I think this technology is here to stay, I believe precautions should be taken in order to diminish the exposure and lower the risk for health hazards.”

Sadetzki recommends using a hands-free device at all times and holding the phone away from the body along with shorter less frequent calls. She also says limit the time kids spend on the phone.

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By jadeskye on 2/18/2008 2:30:54 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a little skeptical.

Not that prolonged cell phone usage increases the chance of a tumour. But that the percentage is that high.

RE: Unlikely.
By KristopherKubicki on 2/18/2008 2:34:17 PM , Rating: 3
The study moves rates from 3 people in 100,000 to 4.5 people in 100,000. This would indicate that the group must have had at least a sample size of 200,000; unless you can halfway get cancer?

I think the onus is on the study to provide vastly more information than they have so far.

RE: Unlikely.
By oab on 2/18/2008 2:48:06 PM , Rating: 2
It also only talks about one specific type of cancer, not cancer in general. And a growth in your salivary ducts is not brain cancer, one is more serious than the other.

What defines 'heavy' use is up in the air, does using blackberry email 24/7 count as heavy? or just talking? What about text messaging? Is it number of hours spent talking on a cell phone per week? Does having a cell phone on a belt clip increase testicular or colon cancer occurance? It's connected, and most people keep it in a belt clip or a pocket (men I mean, women in a purse usually)? Is it talking and having the phone connected that matters, or just turned on? What about text messaging/email? Does it increase the chance of RSI using the keypad so often? Does it increase the possibility of arthritis? Is the cancer more prevalent on one side of the face or the other (ie. does it correspond to handedness?)

Lots of questions that have been unanswered. Of course, you can just "assume it does, get a hands-free, and hope that bluetooth doesn't cause cancer too". Or your municipal wi-fi network. Or your university/company network. Or the coffee shop you hang around in all the time.

What about people who live next to radio transmitters? Do they get cancer more often than those who live far away? What about people who live next to cell-phone transmitters (ie. in apartment buildings), do they have other non-cancerous mental illnesses (such as ADHD, or ODD, or ASPD?

Long-term studies measuring such things as "total radiation exposure" would be better off (including measuring cell-phone, wireless networks, AM/FM, UHF/VHF transmissions, etc.)

Until then, I'm skeptical. Plus, an increase of 1 in 100,000 is statistically insignificant, is it not within the margin for error?

RE: Unlikely.
By Oregonian2 on 2/18/2008 3:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
Well, it's even trickier than that. It could be something associative as well. People who use cell phones a lot probably have other things in common as well (statistically) and one of those other things may be the actual cause (or of course it could be the cell phone itself). Or it could be certain plastics often used in the making of cell phones. Or it could just be people who talk a lot.

RE: Unlikely.
By dgingeri on 2/18/2008 3:17:01 PM , Rating: 3
I would find it likely that those who use cell phone that frequently to make this kind of a difference would also be the kind to suffer a lot higher stress in their life, thus increasing their cancer rates significantly anyway.

This is like saying that people who brush their teeth less are more likely to suffer heart attacks. More likely is that people who don't brush their teeth are also those who don't take as good of care of themselves anyway, and that is more the link between that and increased heart attacks.

In both cases, it is more like saying that since some owls are brown, all bears are owls.

RE: Unlikely.
By blaster5k on 2/18/2008 6:42:59 PM , Rating: 2
I just want to add that this is almost always the case with studies. They're nowhere near as telling as a controlled double-blind test, but I think you'd have trouble pulling one of those off with cell phone use. The person given a fake phone is going to figure out he's in the control group pretty quickly.

Bottom line: Studies make the news all the time, but a lot of their "findings" are likely to be inaccurate or even utter crap.

RE: Unlikely.
By dnd728 on 2/18/2008 2:49:10 PM , Rating: 2
Or only 67K

RE: Unlikely.
By Farfignewton on 2/18/2008 2:53:47 PM , Rating: 2
This would indicate that the group must have had at least a sample size of 200,000; unless you can halfway get cance

Maybe you only get it on one side of the head? Seriously though, you'd think the sample size would have to be a whole lot bigger than that unless it was repeated dozens of times or something. I mean ONE more person out of 200,000? Surely that isn't statistically significant even if it is a 50% increase.

RE: Unlikely.
By mmntech on 2/18/2008 3:10:10 PM , Rating: 3
Just because it's in a peer reviewed journal doesn't make it true. If anything, the only side effect cell phone use cases is a total loss of manners and driving ability.

There definitely needs to be more research on the subject because each time one study is released, another one comes out saying they don't cause tumors. I think a lot of these cell phone tumor studies (to borrow a term that appears on this site a lot) are FUD. The level of radiation cell phones and other wireless devices put out is so low that I doubt there would be such serious risks. You have a greater risk of cancer just standing out in the sun.

RE: Unlikely.
By oab on 2/18/2008 4:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
While true that the sun is more likely to cause cancer, you imply that because the power is so low there are no serious risks, but what about risks that are not serious?

Riding a roller-coaster carries the risk it might jump off the tracks. It is not a serious risk however, but does that mean there is no risk at all? Of course there is a risk, but it is a risk that millions of people are willing to take because the chance of it occurring are so low.

Saying "don't ride roller-coasters, it could jump the tracks and you could die", that's sort-of FUD like, but nothing that people would take seriously.

RE: Unlikely.
By KristopherKubicki on 2/18/2008 3:10:38 PM , Rating: 3
The report itself is a statistical nightmare. It looks like the sample size was justified by the number of people who got tumors in Israel, and then based on habits of those who used cell phones.

This assumes the people who actually have cancer knew it and it was diagnosed correctly.

RE: Unlikely.
By masher2 on 2/18/2008 3:21:47 PM , Rating: 2
> "would indicate that the group must have had at least a sample size of 200,000; unless you can halfway get cancer?"

Epidemiological studies work a bit differently. Their sample set is a group of people who all suffer from the disease, compared to a control set of (generally) 1000 or so people who didn't.

Of course, such studies are usually bunk. Let's look at this one, for instance. They start with ~450 actual cases of PGTs -- no association to cell phone usage was found. They then toss out all the contralateral cases, those who use hands-free devices, and those with only regular usage in urban areas (where signals tend to be weaker), and they're down to under 100 cases, where normal statistical variance can be expected to turn something up. And lo and behold it does!

Of course, even the study's authors realize what shaky ground they're on, which is why they themselves state the results only "suggest an association". Because an association may not exist, and even if it does, it may be something totally opposite to what it seems. For instance, rural users may have lower incomes and/or other lifestyle changes which increase their chances of a PGT.

Or -- more likely still -- the small sample set itself may just be experiencing random variance. Look at enough rare diseases in enough small samples, and you'll eventually find several which show elevated rates. That's the nature of statistics.

That's why we've seen so many studies which "suggest" a link between cancer and some benign activity, only to be disproven later by a larger, more thorough study.

RE: Unlikely.
By KristopherKubicki on 2/18/2008 3:28:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yep -- you eloquently put what I was trying to say :)

1 out of 100 = false positive?
By UNCjigga on 2/18/2008 2:31:48 PM , Rating: 4
Not to completely discredit their findings, but this horse has been beaten to death so many times that you're bound to have one study pop up linking cellphones to tumors. That said, we definitely need more research on this field, and with 4G and WiMax on the horizon, consumers may have multiple radio devices in the household so we need to keep studying this.

Full disclosure: I work for the mobile industry

By Omega215D on 2/18/2008 5:12:55 PM , Rating: 2
According to the media news almost everything we do or eat or don't do is linked to cancer in some way.

The human body being easily corrupted is to blame!! =P

Still doesnt mean anything
By Flunk on 2/18/2008 4:54:46 PM , Rating: 2
That percentage is 45 in 100,000,000, unless their sample size was in the hundreds of millions, it is a statistically irrelevant number. Then again, the other studies on this are probably just as irrelevant.

Even if this did conclusively prove anything, you are still much more likely to be hit by a car, fall down the stairs or die of a heart attack, along with several million other more likely causes of death.

RE: Still doesnt mean anything
By oab on 2/18/2008 4:58:59 PM , Rating: 2
Still less likely than winning the lottery. That's 1 in 13 million (give or take a million), compared to 3-4.5 in 100,000.

However, winning the lottery is a hard number, with real maths behind it. Getting a particular type of cancer based on cell phone use, is well ... not as hard.

What I really wish
By Runiteshark on 2/18/2008 7:41:10 PM , Rating: 2
I wish the idiots who feel the need to talk and drive incessantly regardless of the road conditions (we had a minor blizzard a while ago, its great to see some woman on her cellphone whizzing past you on ice covered roads in her tahoe, you think "wreck, wreck, wreck") and not pay attention to the road would get some hardcore cancer.

Just think if those people were off the road. Traffic going down I25 in Denver in the morning and evening would be so much more enjoyable.

RE: What I really wish
By FS on 2/18/2008 9:41:16 PM , Rating: 2
I think a better way would be, if one of the peer reviewed study comes up and says, "using a cell phone while driving increases your chances of cancer" to get the job done. I am sure it'll reduce the number of people using cell phones while driving as Cancers scares them more than an accident.

By ZimZum on 2/18/2008 5:26:15 PM , Rating: 2
Does anything scream Douche Bag like wearing a blue tooth cell phone ear piece out in public? I'm sure there are people who legitimately need these for work purposes but come on. If you're a dude sporting one of these in a night club you may as well write "Ass Clown" on your forehead.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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