A recent Larry King Live program on CNN has put the debate concerning a connection between cellphone use and cancer back on the table. Three prominent neurosurgeons told Larry King that they don’t hold cellphones next to their ears. Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said: “I think the safe practice is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.” Dr. Vini Khurana, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University, who is an outspoken critic of cellphones, added: “I use it on the speaker-phone mode. I do not hold it to my ear.” Adding to the conversation as to the possible connection, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, said that he too used an earpiece. Senator Ted Kennedy’s recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, may have helped reignite the long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer. That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts and a number of groups, including the American Cancer Society. The theory that cellphones cause brain tumors “defies credulity,” according to Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, three large epidemiology studies since 2000 have shown no harmful effects. CTIA — the Wireless Association, the leading industry trade group — says that cellphone use doesn’t pose a health risk. The FDA notes, however, that the average period of phone use in the studies it cites was about three years, so the research doesn’t answer questions about long-term exposures. Critics say many studies are flawed for that reason, and also because they fail to distinguish between casual and heavy use. Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. It appears there is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer. But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can’t explain the mechanism doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones, as well as the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.
When I read about the cellphone–cancer debate, the late Johnny Cochran’s death from brain cancer came to mind. Johnny and I became friends over the years and I can recall that when he was in my presence Johnny was constantly using a cellphone. There was suspicion that this use may have caused the cancer. At this point in time, however, it would be virtually impossible to link an association between cellphone use and cancer. Proving a causal relationship would be most difficult. However, that may change in time. Once long-term use can be tested, the causation problem may take on a different light.
Source: Los Angeles Times
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