Tech Trends: What If Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

An article in today’s New York Times caught my eye: “Cellphone Radiation May Cause Cancer, Advisory Panel Says.” Now that’s not what I needed to start my day, but it certainly did get my interest.

Could a cancer risk end our cultural love affair with the cell phone?

According to this story by Tara Parker-Pope and Felicity Barringer, several things seems to be true:

1. The Advisory Panel was composed of well-regarded scholars who do not appear to have an axe to grind in this issue. The panel was from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization.

2. 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.” Therefore, “Even if the elevated risk is confirmed, gliomas are relatively rare and thus individual risk remains minimal.”

3. “Most major medical groups, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, have said the existing data on cellphones and health has been reassuring.”

4. “Although the panel did not make specific recommendations to consumers, a representative did note that using a hands-free headset during a conversation or communicating via text message would be options for lowering radio frequency exposure.”

So we should not throw away our cell phones, at least not yet. Of course, given the way most people use their cell phones today, especially those under 25, it seems like researchers should look for higher incidence of hand cancer. My teenage kids almost never put their phones to their ears, except when their old dad calls them rather than texting them.

Still, I wonder what would happen if it was determined that cell phone usages does indeed increase our cancer risk? Would we all go out and buy headsets? (Note to self: Prepare to invest my fortune in headset companies.) Or would be be like smokers, whose addiction to a carcinogenic device overwhelms their health concerns?

For now, I’m keeping my cell phone. But I gotta go because my cheeseburger, fries, and Coke are waiting.

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  • So glad you have having fries with that….

  • Ray

    But all of that highly scientific research assumes global warming.  If that doesn’t happen, all bets are off.  We can’t ditch our cell phones until they melt.

    Honestly, can’t people find things to do that are actually productive???  I think I might like to research the correlation between years that the National League won the World Series and years that the PC(USA) voted to change some aspect of its ordination standards.  I’m quite sure I could prove, or at least imply, SOMETHING.  Anybody want to fund my research???

  • Anonymous

    Cheese fries are even better.

  • Anonymous

    Good point about baseball. I hadn’t thought of that.