I know there’s still quite a bit controversy surrounding today’s topic. But I feel it is my obligation to bring up the latest evidence…and let you decide for yourself.
If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you may remember a few years back when I talked about growing fears over the health effects of cell phone use. And more specifically, the role cell phones might play in the development of brain tumors.
The debate has only grown more heated in recent years. But new research hopes to bring an end to it — asserting that there’s no link between cell phone use and brain tumors.
This large-scale study looked at data from nearly 35,000 Australian men and women diagnosed with brain cancer between 1982 and 2012. Findings showed that incidence of brain cancer didn’t increase during that time period, except among the very oldest subjects, between 70 and 84 years old. And even this rise began as early as 1982 — years before cell phone technology was introduced.
Of course, cell phone use has spiked dramatically over the last 20 years — with 90 percent of the population using them, as opposed to just under 10 percent back in 1993. (And boy, do I remember how expensive they were — not to mention being the size of a football.)
These researchers hypothesize that because the radiation from cell phones is non-ionizing (meaning it doesn’t remove electrons from atoms), it is highly unlikely to cause cancer.
But “unlikely” is the operative word here — which simply means “we really don’t know.”
What we do know is that areas of the brain light up on imaging procedures when we place cell phones next to our ears to talk on them. So we know something is happening.
Plus, previous studies do indicate cause for concern. And it’s not like we’re talking about one or two studies, either. There are roughly 30 studies that have investigated the link between cell phones and cancer, at this point
Some have shown a higher risk of brain cancer — some haven’t. So regardless of what this latest investigation says, there’s no way we can really put this controversy to rest. And given the relative newness of the technology, it will likely be a long time before we even come close.
But, of course, the president of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements is already weighing in: “There is no risk. There is no biological mechanism and no animal study or cellular study that finds reproducible evidence of an effect.”
I’d say his best interests are showing through, wouldn’t you?
But fortunately, he’s not the only one who has an opinion on the subject. And other researchers have already pointed out the limitations of this latest study.
Namely, that it lumped all types of brain cancer into a single category — when the most consistent relationship between cell phones and brain cancer has always been with respect to high-grade, extremely malignant cancers. (Most notably, glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM — which kills in a matter of months.)
The risk is also highest or tumors found in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain — another important distinction that this study failed to make.
So what’s the final word, here? Well, as you can see, that still depends on who you talk to. We’re all in a tough position where we simply have to do the best we can with the limited information we have.
Luckily, there have been a lot of great books written about this topic in recent years. My personal favorite is Ann Louise Gittleman’s Zapped. I suggest reading it if you want a comprehensive view of this particular modern health threat — and some strategies on how to minimize its potential fallout.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to forsake my cell phone. But I certainly don’t keep it on my body or put it up to my ear when I’m making a phone call. To me, it simply isn’t worth the risk.