A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

More Mixed Messages on Cancer Risks

July 17, 2011

More mixed messages this weekend. In an interview headlined "Cell Phones and Cancer: Is There a Connection?," Nora Volkow, while acknowledging the uncertainties in Interphone and other epidemiological studies, continues to argue that precaution is the most sensible course of action. "I would feel confident saying to parents in particular that they should educate their children to avoid using cell phones close to their ears," she says. Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), made a splash earlier this year with her color brain scans showing that cell phone radiation can affect brain metabolism.
In contrast, today Siddhartha Mukherjee offers a more skeptical opinion in the Sunday New York Times. It is consistent with what he published in aTimes magazine article a few months ago. That was before the IARC decision to classify RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic —in opposition to his own outlook and, he says, that of the NCI (yet, see this item below). Mukherjee, a professor at Columbia University who won a Pulitzer prize this year, calls the difference in opinion about cell phones between IARC and other cancer agencies a semantic one because IARC's "definition of 'possibly carcinogenic' is much looser." The "split," he says, "has had the unfortunate effect of confounding the public, which now does not know which faction to believe." On that last part, we can all agree.