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Cellphones Medicine

Cell Phones Don't Increase Chances of Brain Cancer 320

Posted by kdawson
from the as-close-to-proof-as-it-gets dept.
mclearn sends in news of "a very large, 30-year study of just about everyone in Scandinavia" that shows no link between mobile phone use and brain tumors. "Even though mobile telephone use soared in the 1990s and afterward, brain tumors did not become any more common during this time, the researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Some activist groups and a few researchers have raised concerns about a link between mobile phones and several kinds of cancer, including brain tumors, although years of research have failed to establish a connection. ... 'From 1974 to 2003, the incidence rate of glioma (a type of brain tumor) increased by 0.5 per cent per year among men and by 0.2 per cent per year among women,' they wrote. Overall, there was no significant pattern."
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Cell Phones Don't Increase Chances of Brain Cancer

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  • extremes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:26PM (#30325728) Homepage

    Are there any levels/frequencies of RF that are known to increase cancer rates? Or could I live on top of a radio tower and do just fine?

    • Re:extremes (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:31PM (#30325808) Journal

      Are there any levels/frequencies of RF that are known to increase cancer rates?

      No, radio waves are non-ionizing.

      Or could I live on top of a radio tower and do just fine?

      You might get cooked as in a microwave, but no cancer.

      • Re:extremes (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:52PM (#30326088) Homepage Journal

        Radio waves are part of the EM spectrum just like light, X-Rays, and Gamma rays the only difference is the color/frequency of the EM.
        That being said the frequencies used in cell phones are not ionizing. At a high enough energy level they will cause harm but that level is really high. Will it cause cancer? Not that I know of.
        It doesn't matter people will still fear cell phones and other things because there is money to be made scaring people.

        • Re:extremes (Score:4, Insightful)

          by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:59PM (#30326196) Journal

          because there is money to be made scaring people.

          There is political power to be gained by scaring people all around. But to make money (directly) you have to offer a dubious protection device after scaring them.

          The world is going to be destroyed in a super earthquake in Nov 2012. Here buy my EarthQuake Repellent Spray by Acme Chemicals.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          If the incubation period of cell phone-induced brain tumors is 20 years, then this study tells us nothing other than we need to check again in 10 years.

          Then again, even studies do show increased tumor rates over a couple decades, the old truism applies -

          If something takes longer than 20-30 years to kill you, humans tend to feel invincible to it unless someone has scared them sufficiently (look at how much of our society eats poorly, smokes, etc.)

      • Re:extremes (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheLink (130905) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:12PM (#30326372) Journal

        > > Are there any levels/frequencies of RF that are known to increase cancer rates?

        > No, radio waves are non-ionizing.

        > You might get cooked as in a microwave, but no cancer.

        Cooking = damage. And the damage can increase the odds of cancer.

        See:
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7965380.stm [bbc.co.uk]
        http://abcnews.go.com/Health/CancerPreventionAndTreatment/story?id=7182731&page=1 [go.com]

        Quote: "Esophageal cancer numbers rose in regions where people preferred their tea very hot, and dropped where tea was served at a cooler temperature. "

        "But unlike booze and cigarettes, Malekzadeh said evidence in his study showed it's not the chemicals in the tea that matters. "

        • by Knara (9377)
          Looks to me like two articles that epitomize "correlation is not causation"
          • by PylonHead (61401)

            You are suggesting that perhaps Esophageal cancer gives you a craving for hot beverages. Or perhaps there is an external factor, like eating carrots, which gives these people both esophageal cancer and a craving for hot beverages.

            Or maybe we could just take the simplest explanation and concede that in this case, causation is the most likely relationship that explains this correlation.

      • "Are there any levels/frequencies of RF that are known to increase cancer rates?"

        No, radio waves are non-ionizing.

        "Or could I live on top of a radio tower and do just fine?"

        You might get cooked as in a microwave, but no cancer.

        Given the sheer volume of things that appear to cause cancer besides ionizing radiation, and given difficulties in detecting some forms of subtle DNA damage, I'd be hesitant to conclude that it -can't- cause cancer.

        The first part I have no dispute with, I'm not saying there is evidence that RF causes cancer. But "You could live on a radio tower and have no cancer" isn't a safe conclusion since we can't prove the negative "RF can not cause cancer."

        Can RF cause cancer via inactivation of specific cell cycle

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Maxmin (921568)

      Specifically "radio frequency," as in only those wavelengths/frequencies used to transmit sound, image and data? Probably not.

      X-rays, gamma rays, alpha/beta particles, neutrons, high frequency UV, etc - these are ionizing.

      Microwaves affect the kinetic energy of dielectric materials, such as water. A different effect than ionization. I also question the penetration depth of cellphone microwaves - do they get much beyond the dermis and adipose layers?

      I wonder if there are other effects besides cancer that

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jarik C-Bol (894741)
      well, i am not a doctor of anything, but the thing to remember is, radio frequencies don't just go away if we're not using them. there is 'noise' on every frequency, caused by any number of natural sources (the sun, stars, what have you). we are constently being exposed to them. the real question is, does increased exposure to higher intensity sources frequencies cause any harm to people. for the most part, it seems the answer is no.

      (this lends a lot of weight to the idea that the people that claim to be
  • by Reikk (534266) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:26PM (#30325732) Homepage
    Talking on cellphones in restaurants was proven to increase your douchebagginess by %100
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 2.7182 (819680)
      Cellphones?!! Bah!! When I was a kid we used two tin cans tied together with a string!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by NiteShaed (315799)

        And when I was a kid, we used to send smoke signals. Of course, we couldn't just light a big fire in a restaurant, so what we'd use were these little paper tubes, filled with dried leaves, and we could control the amount of smoke by sucking on them and then blowing the smoke into the air, sometimes in a stream, sometimes in rings, or if you were really good you could let the smoke come out of your mouth and then re-inhale it through your nose.
        Unlike cellphones, this form of communication was banned in rest

  • So what if it did? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingSkippus (799657) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:27PM (#30325744) Homepage Journal

    So what if it did? Would anyone really stop using cell phones? I suspect it's kind of like knowing that the odds are pretty good that sometime in your lifetime, you'll have an automobile accident. It might even be fatal. Are you going to stop driving?

    Everything is a risk. It all comes down to judging how much of a risk something is versus what you gain from taking that risk. Even if using cell phones increases your risk of brain cancer, it must be by some amount that is so minuscule that it's practically non-existent, witnessed by the fact that 95% of our population isn't walking around with brain cancer.

    I like those odds.

    • So what if it did? Would anyone really stop using cell phones? I suspect it's kind of like knowing that the odds are pretty good that sometime in your lifetime, you'll have an automobile accident. It might even be fatal. Are you going to stop driving?

      Everything is a risk. It all comes down to judging how much of a risk something is versus what you gain from taking that risk. Even if using cell phones increases your risk of brain cancer, it must be by some amount that is so minuscule that it's practically non-existent, witnessed by the fact that 95% of our population isn't walking around with brain cancer.

      I like those odds.

      Good point.

      Here in the US, at least, folks seem pretty risk-averse. There's always a push to make thing safer, eliminate danger, etc. That's not necessarily a bad thing... If I'm going to get in a car crash I'd rather have an airbag in my car... But it isn't necessarily a good thing either, as fewer people actually get out and experience the world around them.

      There is such a thing as an acceptable risk. As you said, it's fairly certain that you'll eventually get in a car accident and maybe even die fro

      • by cbreaker (561297)
        Risk is the price of freedom, and the sooner people learn this, the sooner we can move on to improving our civilization.

        Unfortunately, the trend seems to be going in the opposite direction, and that's bad news for freedom.

        ps. If you stop using a cell phone after years of use, you won't feel physically and mentally ill. Not the same as smoking.
        • Risk is the price of freedom, and the sooner people learn this, the sooner we can move on to improving our civilization.

          Taking on certain risks is indeed a price of freedom, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't reduce certain risks as much as possible and then accept the rest. Not reducing those risks that can be reduced without much negative impact on the desired outcome is simply irresponsible. However, the opposite extreme, never doing anything in order to minimize risk is indeed a problem. It's just not the whole problem. Choosing appropriately what risks to accept and which to avoid or reduce is the name of the game. Ris

          • by cbreaker (561297)
            Surely you didn't take my statement to mean I am a proponent of anarchy.

            We do need to help manage risk, and we need a government that can help facilitate major risk reduction that's not possible at a personal level.

            However, more and more we see this taken to the extreme and abused. We won't want to live in a rubber box. I'm willing to accept that there are crazy people in this world that will do bad things and I'm not willing to surrender my freedom to prevent these nut jobs from doing what they'll do a
    • by joeflies (529536)
      I think that the point is that people want to know the facts so they can make their own decision.
    • There are a bunch of very vocal people who kinda hate everything unnatural and say everything will kill you faster, try to get laws past banning such technologies although they tend to fail most of the time sometimes these stupid laws get past. And if they don't and it is found harmful they will go "See I told you I was right next time you will listen to me!", so the next time they will ban the next harmless material by using psutoscience so they can show how much of a better person they are from everyone

    • Everything is a risk.

      Except, apparently, cellphones.

    • by Znork (31774)

      Would anyone really stop using cell phones?

      Many who've studied brain cancer or seen it up close would. It's one of those diseases where the sheer nastiness (of the most common variants) is so bad that no matter how small the risk, it's better to avoid it.

      95% of our population isn't walking around with brain cancer.

      Mean survival time is about 11 months and chances are it'll eat important enough parts of the brain before that, so they wouldn't be walking around anyway.

      Unfortunately, there are few readily appa

      • by timster (32400)

        "No matter how small the risk"? You can't mean that. How about 1 in a googol?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by R2.0 (532027)

      "So what if it did? Would anyone really stop using cell phones? I suspect it's kind of like knowing that the odds are pretty good that sometime in your lifetime, you'll have an automobile accident. It might even be fatal. Are you going to stop driving?"

      The difference is that now people who get brain cancer won't have someone to blame. In our modern culture and legal system, there simply is no such thing as "shit happens". If something bad happens, it is ALWAYS someone's fault. There is no room for what w

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Admiralbumblebee (996792) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:29PM (#30325770) Homepage
    Glioma != "brain tumors". There are many other forms of brain tumors which this study does not cover. The story should be "No link between glioma and cell phone usage found."
  • by jeffshoaf (611794) * on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:35PM (#30325864)
    Yeah, but what about second-hand cell phone usage? If the person in the room with you or in the car with you is using a cell phone, does it increase your chance of brain tumors?

    OK, OK, I'm not totally serious with this (it's more a riff on the whole second-hand smoke issue), but still...
    • I'm not totally serious with this (it's more a riff on the whole second-hand smoke issue), but still...

      I know you're joking but...

      If the person in the room with you or in the car with you is using a cell phone, does it increase your chance of brain tumors?

      The law of invert square tells us that your increase in chance of having a brain tumour are infinitesimal compared to his/her (which are already too low to be considered anything but negligible according to the study).
      Unless you stick your head right next to her/his, that is.

      The same law dictates that you'll be much safer if you stick your (high power emitting might go up to ~2W) phone into your pocket and instead stick some low power transmitter next to your ear (like a Class2 or

      • by Gonoff (88518)

        Your use of the law of inverse squares indicates you have some scientific education that you remember and still use.

        Perhaps the people who are behind this myth (because I believe it is one) may not be so keen to use such concepts.

        The people I have heard spouting such ideas took offence when I tried to bring logic, science or rationality into the discussion. Apparently, these are the concepts that got us into these problems in the first place...

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Look, conspiracy theorists/etc. simply like to think they're smart, that they have the mental capacity to see the reality clearer than anybody else.

          Obviously they start to get unpleasant when you remind them that they're stupid, even if only by mentioning "spooky terms".

          BTW, regarding this thread...is there ANY place with sensible reviews of bluetooth headsets?

  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:37PM (#30325880)
    It's people buying into the sensationalism that the media perpetuates around anything vaguely related to human healthcare. Dumbing everything down to the level of the stupidest person consuming the news results in demeaning everyone else.

    There is so much potential for online news. They could be using, omg, hyperlinks to connect the topic to the relevant terms and field of science. I wish I would hear about p-values and numbers in scientific notation! I think the vast majority of people would have actually no problem understanding news that is expressed not in Libraries of Congress, but in proper SI units. I want reporters to link to the original scientific paper they are writing a piece about or what's better: ask for and pressure scientists into being able to distribute the paper itself.

    I want to read news with an Atom feed aggregator, where I find the paper the article refers to as a directly downloadable content.
    • They aren't dumbing it down to the "stupidest" person consuming news, just the 50th percentile. This gets the largest viewer/readership which translates to more ad revenue. Just say what the 50th percentile wants to hear and you automatically have the largest market, ala Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

      • You might be right. Or I might be right. Who knows? It would be nice to see a study on this that includes p-values, control groups and detailed methodology.

        See what I did there?
        • No, you are right in your analysis. Dumbing anything down to any level (be it the stupidest person, or just the 50th percentile) IS demeaning to a large number of people (the 49th percentile and above, for example). I was just saying you don't want to dumb it down to the stupidest person, because by doing that, you are missing out on a large market of just slightly stupid people out there.

      • Actually, both Limbaugh and Fox News succeed because so few other outlets in the media discuss news from a non-liberal viewpoint. Maybe they are targeting the 50th percentile, maybe not, but Daily Show/Colbert Report are probably targeting the same range (just more leftward/younger/funnier). This is why Dennis Miller can't keep a show on mainstream TV, because he targets the 90th percentile.

        On the other hand, the Fox News website panders to the 25th percentile. I swear, half the stuff on there these days

    • I think the vast majority of people would have actually no problem understanding news that is expressed not in Libraries of Congress, but in proper SI units.

      I'm blowing an earlier moderation to a post so I can comment on this. I think that perhaps you overestimate your fellow members of society. The tolerance of most people for anything even remotely resembling detail is pretty low. You can test this by trying to have a discussion with family/friends/people on the bus about why firewalls are important o

      • Here's the thing: There is no they. "They" is really us. "We" could be doing any of this. But the fact is, our mainstream culture ISN'T that way because for the most part, WE aren't that way. In the meantime, there is a wealth of information out there for us outliers to FIND that information. Forums like slashdot where you CAN find the relevant terms, links to the paper, etc.

        There is a they, I was referring to the precise group of journalists/online outlets who get paid to deliver/disseminate news. What c

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dzfoo (772245)

        Nicely said. I once read about an interview with Steve Jobs, at around the time that the started the NeXT Computer Company, and I was impressed when he said something similar to your comment. I found the quote in WikiQuotes:

        "When you're young, you look at television and think, There's a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that's not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That's a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It's the truth."

        And like him, I agree: that's a far more depressing thought than a mere conspiracy. It means that, as you say, there is no they; we are building the world as we want it; by inertia and laziness, not by force. That people--us--are actually that dispassionate and lethargy by our own na

        • Permit me to reply with a quote myself then:

          The physicist Leo Szilard once announced to his friend Hans Bethe that he was thinking of keeping a diary: 'I don't intend to publish. I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God.' ''Don't you think God knows the facts?" Bethe asked. 'Yes,' said Szilard. 'He knows the facts, but He does not know this version of the facts.' - Hans Christian von Baeyer, Taming the Atom.

          The relevance, I think is that "the networks giving people what they want" i

  • Good! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So I can take this tin foil hat off of my head now? It makes it hard to hear the people on the other end.
  • Needs "duh" tag... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:46PM (#30325998)

    This story needs the "duh" tag. Radio frequency has been around much longer than cell phones. If RF caused cancer, we would have known it long before the advent of cell phones.

  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:54PM (#30326120) Homepage

    I'm sick and tired of "Experts" telling me how to do things. When you spend your whole life studying one thing, you end up knowing nothing. Common sense is all you need.

    Now I'm off to read the horoscope to see if I should buy a lottery ticket.

  • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:55PM (#30326124) Homepage

    This study shows Scandinavians don't get any increased tumors. Don't try to pass that off as evidence that Mericans won't. Haven't you heard all the complaints -- do you think people are crazy?

  • Bad Title (Score:2, Insightful)

    The title says

    Cell Phones Don't Increase Chances of Brain Cancer on Friday December 04, @09:23AM

    That isn't a very good title. The article doesn't state that scell phones don't increase chances of brain cancer. It just says there is no scientific link. These are two very different things.

    A scientific journal artical would be very unlikely to state that cell phones don't increase the chances of brain cancer. It would be more likely to say something like.. It was determined with reasonable probability that there is no link between cell phone usage and glioma and meningioma.

    Credible scie

    • by mclearn (86140)
      I posted the title. Unfortunately, Slashdot titles are restricted in length. If the titles were longer, we might get more accurate descriptions. As it is, you can't and you do the best you can.
  • by Xacid (560407) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:10PM (#30326348) Journal

    in a 29 year period rates have gone up:

    14.5% for males.
    5.8% for females.

    And this isn't significant how? I'd say a steady yearly increase like that has to have SOME factor somewhere worth discovering - even if it may not be cell phones specifically.

    • Seriously! If they think numbers like these are a wash then please make me 14.5% LESS likely to get cancer in the next study, since apparently they think it's all just statistical noise anyway. Also, talking about recent upward trends in use over the whole population tells us nothing. Smoking for ten years won't give you cancer either -- you need to follow the same people for many decades.

      Anyway what about the reports of higher incidence of testicular cancer among traffic cops who use RADAR? That's not

  • As a loyal slashdotter, I refuse to even hover over the link of TFA, but my absolutely non-educated guess is that although cell phones may not have been around for 30 years (if it weighs over 10 kgs, it's NOT a cell phone in my book), they studied the past 30 years to get a baseline. First 10 years or so as a baseline of how the population was doing in a pre-cellphone era, then 20 years of actual usage.

    PS: for those still stuck in non-metric systems, 10 kgs is like a kadzillion ounces.

  • It is possible, Deltour's team wrote, that it takes longer than 10 years for tumours caused by mobile phones to turn up, that the tumours are too rare in this group to show a useful trend, or that there are trends but in subgroups too small to be measured in the study.

    It is just as possible that mobile phones do not cause brain tumours, they added.

    If correlation != causation, then surely lack of correlation != lack of causation. Right?

    • by raddan (519638) *
      Actually, that's not true. A lack of correlation MUST mean that there is no direct causal relation between the two things you are studying. Otherwise, there would be some correlation. If there is indeed a causal relation, but your experimental data shows no correlation, it means that your experiment is not testing your hypothesis.
  • Causing cancer takes time. Just look at smokers. If (I doubt it) but if there is a link to be found I wouldn't expect to see the cancer rate to even begin to rise until the 20teens or so. If anybody has a cell/bag/carphone induced cancer now it would probably be someone who started with the bulky things back in the 80s and what percentage of the population is that?
  • 'From 1974 to 2003, the incidence rate of glioma (a type of brain tumor) increased by 0.5 per cent per year among men and by 0.2 per cent per year among women,' they wrote.

    0.5%/year for 29 years is 1.005^29 = 1.1556 or 15.56% increase for men, 5.97% for women.

    That leads to a few hypotheses from me:
    1) Men think with their cock (the cellphone is usually kept in trouser pockets)
    2) We've gotten slowly better at finding these cancers (but why is the increase that much higher in men?)
    3) Some other carcinogen in

    • by dapyx (665882)
      The people live longer, so the average age is increasing and with the age, so do the chances of getting cancer. Statistics for each age group remained constant.
      • Granted, they live longer, but I doubt the average life span has increased that much for those two groups in that short a time span. The article does say that better techniques have made it easier to diagnose the cancers, but there's still a big gap between male and female.

        Actually, checking with Dansk Statistik [www.dst.dk] (Denmark's statistical bureau) the average life span in 1987-1988 was 71.84 for men and 77.70 for women, and it was 76.26/80.70 in 2007-2008. That's 6.15% for men and 3.86% for women over a 20 year

  • There are useful things that can be a potential health hazard: Cars, mobile phones etc.

    And then there are useless items that are known to be health hazards, like tobacco.

    People worried about the former should take a break until we have banned the latter.

  • all those middle aged chunky guys walking around in corporate casual golf tee shirts and khakis (and its ALWAYS middle aged chunky guys in corporate casual golf tee shirts and khakis), with a blinking blue light permanently affixed to their ear, have to be nuking some sort of brain tissue

    a desperate ploy to feel important and in touch, but just winding up looking like a wannabe lando calrissian assistant in cloud city

  • so isn't _something_ causing them ?

  • by FirstOne (193462) on Friday December 04, 2009 @03:24PM (#30327470) Homepage

    This is an outdated study.

    The 1974 to 2003 period was dominated by the old analog 800-850 Mhz AMP's tech.

    Modern CDMA, GSM tech is of W2K vintage.
          Same goes for higher frequencies being used, now 1.6 to 2.2Ghz..
          Likewise for portable phones.. 1.7/46/49Mhz.. 900Mhz, newer 2.4Ghz, 5.4Ghz.

    Each step up in frequency increases the dV across brain tissue by a cubed function.
    I.E. More energy absorbed in a smaller volume(HALF WAVELENGTH).

    Cell phones also adjust their output power based on received signal strength.
    Longer wave AMP's frequencies had a lot more penetrating power/reduced absorption which reduces transmission power. The converse is true for higher frequencies and absorption.

    Modern cell phones reduced form factor has also increased exposure.
          Smaller/tiny radiating surface centered around ear, verses old bag phones with separate phone style handsets.

    Likewise, per minute costs have dropped, thus increasing usage and individual exposure several fold.

    Then there is nature of organically catalyzed reactions where tiny amounts of energy are used to shift reaction equilibrium's. Even small delta V potentials can affect outcomes..

    Lot's of huge issues not addressed by this outdated/invalid study.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:43PM (#30329358) Homepage

      NMT dominated the 80's (in fact, it was the biggest cellular network in the world back then...) and the beginning of the 90's there. Introduced almost three decades ago. Rapidly lost relevance with the large scale introduction of GSM networks in the mid 90's (which begun in 91 in Scandinavia BTW)

      And you dismiss the most important thing - that the study didn't look at the specific hypothetical mechanisms in detail, just at the prevalence of cancer in relation to cellphones adoption.

      It found NOTHING. Which is especially significant given partially sensibly sounding "complications" in the latter part of your post.

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