Cellphones might cause cancer, well maybe not...wait, they might...
There has been a lot of buzz this afternoon following the release of a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stating that cell phone use can increase the risk of cancer. You can read the whole release here, but it pretty much all boils down to (no pun intended) the opening sentence:
Lyon, France, May 31, 2011 ‐‐ The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer (1), associated with wireless phone use.
We've been here before, haven't we? In this case, a group 31 scientists from 14 countries surveyed literature from previous studies, doing no new experiments before reaching this conclusion. And what exactly is the conclusion? Well, microwave radiation from cellphones might cause cancer. Is this news?
I've been using cellphones for more than 20 years. I started with one of those cool bag phones, moved up to a Motorola brick phone, then a Nokia brick, a StarTac, a Kyocera, a RAZR...the list goes on and on. I've never been one to have long cell phone conversations but I figure over the years I've had my fair share of microwave radiation from cell phones, TV trucks at news events and from cooking popcorn (that counts too, doesn't it?). So far, no cancer although some might say my brain is half-baked.
These reports come out and each time they cause minor hysteria. A CNN video published today even shows a California lab testing a simulated brain, and after the big buildup you expect the brain to bubble with radiation. Instead, the reporter, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, says "my cell phone measured within FCC limits," then goes on to explain that skull size and thickness can change radiation exposure, especially in children. He also shares that several cellphone manufacturers have warnings in their literature saying users should hold their phones an incremental distance from their heads to minimize exposure. That's a typical CYA move and given the lack of calarity in these studies, those disclaimers are to be expected. The CNN report ends up leaving you with more questions than answers.
Don't get me wrong, I support this type of research and don't mean to trivialize a serious issue like cancer. This, however, seems like more of the same "Chicken Little, the sky is falling" news we've heard on this issue before. Now with an estimated 5 billion people using mobile phones and high-speed wireless technologies pushing us toward unplugging for good, someone better figure this out.
More than a year ago several studies were released saying cellphones are now used for data more than they are for voice calls. That means less people are holding phones up to their heads and instead are texting, sending emails and using social media. Hello? That's the real threat to society. The likelihood that a cellphone will contribute to my demise because some idiot was texting and crossed the center line in traffic is far greater than my exposure to microwave radiation. So let's focus on getting people to stop texting while driving and if you have some real information about the radiation thing, get back to me.