A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

cancer: Microwave News Article Archive (2004 - )

April 14, 2011

Next Sunday, the New York Times Magazine will feature a long piece titled "Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?" by Siddhartha Mukherjee (it's already on the Times' Web site). It's a well-written article, as might be expected by his well-received book, Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Yet an important part of the...

Next Sunday, the New York Times Magazine will feature a long piece titled "Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?" by Siddhartha Mukherjee (it's already on the Times' Web site). It's a well-written article, as might be expected by his well-received book, Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Yet an important part of the story is missing: the politics of cell...

December 21, 2010

It's only a short letter buried in the back pages of a journal, but it could change the entire cell phone–cancer controversy.

A group at Hebrew University in Jerusalem has reported a sharp increase in the incidence of parotid gland tumors in Israel over the last 30 years. Rakefet Czerninski, Avi Zini and Harold Sgan-Cohen found that these tumors have quadrupled since 1970, "with the steepest increase" after 2001 (see plot below). Their letter appears in the January 2011 issue of Epidemiology; it's a free download. They are with the Hadassah School of Dental Medicine at the university.

September 28, 2010

Who offers better scientific advice: Lady Gaga or Scientific American ? Okay, it's a trick question. Sometimes Lady Gaga does make more sense.

Two items crossed our desk this morning. A dispatch from Next-Up, the European EM activist group, under the title "Lady Gaga Says No to Radiation from Mobile Phones." That in turn was based on an August 31 story in the U.K. Sun newspaper —admittedly not one of the most reliable sources of news, but then again this is not a complicated story. "Mobiles Send You Gaga," warned the headline (don't miss the Sun's accompanying photo of Lady G. in her retro phone hat). Citing a "source close to the star," the Sun reported: "Even though there's no firm evidence, it's really freaked her out. One of her team has to hold the phone so it isn't too close to her head. She then listens on the phone loudspeaker." That's one way to practice precaution, at least for those lucky enough to have an assistant always at the ready.

May 17, 2010

An essential part of the Interphone story is Appendix 2. Although not included in the paper, it offers a way to look at the risks free of some of the bias that so muddled the published results. It also provides a window on the controversy that deadlocked the Interphone group for four years.

There is a general consensus that the large number of abnormally low risks observed in Interphone is a sign of a systematic problem —selection bias— in the way that the study was carried out. As the Interphone group acknowledges, it is “unlikely” that cell phones could immediately provide protection against brain tumors (see main Interphone Story).

December 18, 2009

Pity those who are trying to follow the cell phone–brain tumor story. Their sense of the cancer risk is most likely a reflection of the last thing they read or saw on TV —It all depends on whose sound bite they happen to catch.

Take, for example, a paper published earlier this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) by a team of Scandinavian epidemiologists, under a rather bland title — “Time Trends in Brain Tumor Incidence Rates in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, 1974–2003.” But its message is anything but: Because there has been no increase in brain tumors between 1998 and 2003, a period when the use of cell phones “increased sharply,” cell phones are cancer safe.

November 23, 2009

A decade after some of the world's leading epidemiologists agreed that exposure to power line EMFs could lead to childhood leukemia, the denial continues. Some people still believe that the studies that link EMFs to cancer are nothing more than junk science. Even those who should know better refuse to acknowledge the risks. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the association is so weak that it can be pretty much ignored, and the leading radiation protection group, ICNIRP, has refused to endorse precaution. Here in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scarcely acknowledges that EMFs are even a health issue.

October 28, 2009

Saturday's lead story in the Telegraph made believe that the U.K. daily had gotten hold of the much-delayed and much sought-after final results of the Interphone study — and that they showed that using a cell phone does indeed increase the risk of developing a brain tumor. Under the headline "Mobiles: New Cancer Alert," the newspaper proclaimed that, "Long-term use of mobile phones may be linked to some cancers, a landmark international study will conclude later this year." In its inside pages were a number of related stories, notably "People Must Be Told About Mobile Phone Dangers, Say Experts" and a sidebar about Larry Mills who had developed a tumor "exactly where he held the phone." The story was pitched as an "EXCLUSIVE" and was soon picked up by many other newspapers and Web sites.

September 30, 2009

Mice that were placed under short-term stress before being exposed to UV radiation, a known cancer-causing agent, developed fewer skin tumors than those that just got the UV. These new findings from Firdaus Dhabhar's lab at Stanford University medical school were released by Brain, Behavior and Immunity a few days ago.

Dhabhar's study is the first specifically designed to test the hypothesis that stress can protect against tumors. But his results are eerily similar to those obtained in a set of $10 million animal experiments, known as PERFORM-A, that were supposed to investigate the cancer risks associated with cell-phone radiation. In each case, the animals were restrained inside plastic tubes: in Dhabhar's study to put the mice under stress, and in the PERFORM-A project to keep the animals in a fixed position in order to deliver a well-defined dose of radiation. And, in each case, the stress had a dramatic —and very similar— impact on the animals.

April 10, 2009

Shows on cell phone radiation are all over the TV news —at least in Australia and Europe, if not the U.S.

One theme that runs through many of these programs is impatience over the delays in the publication of the Interphone results. In a Swiss documentary, aired on March 31, Christopher Wild, the new head of IARC, expresses his concern over the reputation of IARC and says that he looks forward to its completion "in the coming months." Elisabeth Cardis, the head of Interphone, concedes to that same Swiss TV reporter that Interphone is indeed taking a long time to finish (see "Interphone Project: The Cracks Begin To Show"). A few days earlier in an unrelated e-mail, Cardis stated that the results would be submitted for publication "in the coming weeks."

September 28, 2008

Are you confused about cell-phone tumor risks? Need a roadmap to the epidemiological studies? Want a handle on their strengths and weaknesses? Then read Michael Kundi's new review, "The Controversy About a Possible Relationship Between Mobile Phone Use and Cancer," in Environmental Health Perspectives. (EHP is an open access journal and all its papers are available for free.)

Kundi, an epidemiologist and the head of the Institute of Environmental Health at the University Medical of Vienna, is not totally convinced that there is such a link, but he is persuaded that it's looking that way. So far, Kundi finds, the epidemiological evidence points to an association of "moderate strength," similar to the one for passive smoking and lung cancer, and that there are as yet "no valid counterarguments and no strong evidence" to shake his confidence in a causal relationship.

September 23, 2008

The latest issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin, released today, presents the National Cancer Institute's outlook on the cancer risks associated with cell phones. It is based largely on the views of NCI's Peter Inskip.

March 10, 2004

A U.K. panel has thrown some cold water on the idea that charged particles (ions) created by power lines could increase cancer rates among those living nearby. In a report issued on March 10, the advisory group on non-ionizing radiation (AGNIR) to the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) concludes that “it seems unlikely that corona ions would have more than a small effect on the long-term health risks associated with particulate air pollution.”

February 23, 2004

On February 23, the National Toxicology Program released its request for proposals (No. NIH-ES-04-06) for large-scale animal studies to evaluate the possible toxic and carcinogenic effects of cell phone radiation. The FDA originally asked for these studies more than five years ago (see MWN, N/D99, p.5; J/A00, p.5; M/J01, p.1; and M/J03, p.17). The total cost of the project will be on the order of $10 million. Proposals are due by April 8.

January 20, 2004

Today it may be more of historical than scientific interest, but EPA’s 1990 evaluation of EMF cancer risks is now available on the Internet at no charge.

Back then, the draft Evaluation of the Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields was a hot item. A team led by Dr. Robert McGaughy had recommended that power-frequency EMFs should be classified as “probable human carcinogens” and that RF/MW radiation be considered a “possible human carcinogen.”

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