Shedding Light in the Darkness

New Cell Phone Study Cancer Link

SmartphoneConsumer Reports announced a new government study on cell-phone radiation and cancer has found a slight connection between the two: High exposure to such radiation caused malignant tumors to grow in the nerves and hearts of male rats, but not in female rats, and not in any of the mice tested.

The link between cell-phone radiation and malignant brain tumors called gliomas was weaker. Gliomas were detected in male rats exposed to radiation, but it was unclear whether or not those tumors were actually caused by the radiation.

The study, which cost $25 million and took more than a decade to complete, was conducted by the National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Rats and mice (roughly 3,000 total) were exposed to the same kind of radiofrequency waves emitted from cell phones, for 9 hours each day, spread over the course of the day. The exposure to that radiation began in utero and continued for about two years. Because rodents develop cancer much faster than humans, two years is enough time to reveal longer-term cancer risks (a 2-year-old rat is roughly equal to a 70-year-old human).

“The intriguing part is the kind of tumors we saw were similar to tumors noted for quite some time in some epidemiological studies in heavy duty cellphone users,” John Bucher, a senior scientist with NTP, said in a telephone interview. “Of course, these were in the nerves in the ear and next to the brain, but the tumor types were the same as we saw in the heart.”

Bucher said the effect likely only showed up in the male rats because they were larger, and likely absorbed more radiation than the female rats or mice.
Other studies have found correlations between long-term cellphone use and glioma—especially among people who exclusively hold the phone to the same side of their head. A 2010 paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology, for example, found people with the highest level of cellphone use, about 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period, had a 40 percent higher risk for glioma, compared with those who used cellphones less frequently.




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