31 May 2011

cell phones --> cancer?

In case your mother hasn't forwarded it to you, or your Facebook feed hasn't been blowing up with links to articles like this, I thought I'd post it here. The summary: a panel of 31 scientists from 14 countries have concluded that cell phone use may be linked to cancer. First off, getting 31 scientists to come to a definitive conclusion about anything is sometimes difficult, so in a sense, this vague statement is not surprising. But as a scientist, this conclusion doesn't mean much (a huge number of environmental factors "may" be linked to cancer). While I frankly have not seen the raw data or published study, from what I've seen in the media, no odds ratios or relative risks have been reported. Sure there was an increased risk of gliomas in heavy cell phone users (original article), but what was the sample size? Where there confounding factors? Perhaps I have been reading too many epidemiological studies recently, but I believe these reports have had a greater PR impact than any scientific impact. Even the W.H.O has only classified cellphones as Category 2B (possibly carcinogenic, along with...coffee). My take: Until we start seeing more functional validation studies...calm down people. And journalists, please report your data responsibly.

WHO/IARC Press Release
Cellphone Radiation May Cause Cancer, Advisory Panel Says
by Tara Parker-Pope and Felicity Barringer

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