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Panel of Experts Categorizes Cell Phones as “Possibly Carcinogenic”

ABC World News reported, “An important new alert about the safety of cell phones and the possible risk of cancer, brain cancer in particular…comes from the World Health Organization.” NBC Nightly News reported, the WHO “statement labeling cell phones as a possible carcinogenic hazard comes from a panel of 31 scientists.”

According to the AP, the statement was “issued in Lyon, France, on Tuesday by the International Agency for Research on Cancer” (IARC) after a “weeklong meeting” during which experts reviewed “possible links between cancer and the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar.” The IARC classified cellphones in “category 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic” to humans. The assessment now “goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the IARC working group did not conduct new research. Instead, the panel reviewed existing literature that focused on the health effects of radio frequency magnetic fields. Its findings are slated to be published July 1 in Lancet Oncology.

The New York Times “Well” blog noted that the panel’s decision to “classify cellphones as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ was based largely on epidemiological data showing an increased risk among heavy cellphone users of a rare type of brain tumor called a glioma.” Most “major medical groups,” including the National Cancer Institute, have “said the existing data on cellphones and health has been reassuring.” Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association “reported on research from the National Institutes of Health, which found that less than an hour of cellphone use can speed up brain activity in the area closest to the phone antenna.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that a 2010 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found a “40% increase risk of gliomas for people who used a cellphone an average of 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period.” The Orange County (CA) Register reported that the literature review also indicated “long-term or heavier use” of cell phones may increase risk for a “cancer type called acoustic neuroma.”

Bloomberg News reported that the most recent research “considered dated to 2004, and exposure levels from handsets have dropped over time,” said IARC Working Group Chair Dr. Jonathan Samet from the University of Southern California. The age of the studies also means the participants “had used their phones for no more than 10 to 15 years, leaving open the question of the effect of longer-term exposure,” he noted.

On the CBS Evening News, Dr. Samet was shown saying, “The jury is not clear, it’s not an established carcinogen and for those who want to take steps to reduce their exposure, they can do it.”

BBC News reports, “Ed Yong, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘The WHO’s verdict means that there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer but it is too weak” to draw strong conclusions.

WebMD reported that the finding “means that research is urgently needed. … It’s important to put the possible risk into context. Kurt Straif, MD, PhD, MPH, head of the IARC Monographs Program,” noted that the IARC currently lists “some 240 agents as ‘possibly carcinogenic,’ including dry cleaning fluid and some commonly used pesticides.”

Utah’s Deseret Morning News quoted IARC Director Christopher Wild as saying, pending the availability of long-term research, “it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”

CNN noted that manufacturers of “many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body and medical experts say there other ways to minimize” cell phone radiation. For example, the Apple iPhone 4 “safety manual says users’ radiation exposure should not exceed FCC guidelines: ‘When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body.’”

Meanwhile, the National Journal reports that the American Cancer Society estimates that “around 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord and 13,070 will die. Gliomas account for about 1.3 percent of all cancers in the US.” HealthDay noted that globally, an estimated “five billion cell phones are in use. ‘The number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children,’” the IARC said in a news release.

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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