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Biggest Study On Cellphone Health Effects Launched in Europe 109

Posted by timothy
from the pay-extra-to-be-in-the-control-group dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The biggest study to date into the effects of cellphone usage on long-term health was launched today, aiming to track at least a quarter of a million of people in five European countries for up to 30 years. The Cohort Study on Mobile Communications (COSMOS) differs from previous attempts to examine links between mobile phone use and diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders in that it will follow users' behaviour in real time. Most other large-scale studies have centred around asking people already suffering from cancer or other diseases about their previous cellphone use. Researchers said long-term monitoring will provide more time for diseases to develop, since many cancers take 10 or 15 years for symptoms to appear."
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Biggest Study On Cellphone Health Effects Launched in Europe

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  • by CdXiminez (807199) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:24AM (#31952624)

    I wonder what mental and dental health effects they find now that most people's mouths never stop moving anymore.

  • Foil hats (Score:2, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665)

    Foil hats on, chaps!

  • More info on study (Score:5, Informative)

    by thijsh (910751) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:40AM (#31952688) Journal
    There is some more info here: http://www.mthr.org.uk/research_projects/COSMOS.htm [mthr.org.uk]

    Apparently the project is in the UK, Scandinavia and The Netherlands, let's see if I can participate...

    No details on how the study is performed but I guess they will just try to gather data for statistical analysis. I hope they will make a difference between calling for hours daily (holding at your ear) and using mobile Internet over 3G for hours daily (on your lap / in hand)... Most studies until now just looked at the length of use and calculate the energy absorbed by the body (i.e. a sack of water), and I guess there aren't really a lot of interesting things to learn from that...
  • Does the "Biggest Study" mean that we have to take its results for granted ? I think that's why they are using those keywords like "Biggest" for..
  • Cause or effect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:58AM (#31952778) Homepage

    So...um, if they find brain cancer in the sector of the population who can't ever seem to put their phones down, will that be diagnosed as a cause or an effect?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      So...um, if they find brain cancer in the sector of the population who can't ever seem to put their phones down, will that be diagnosed as a cause or an effect?

      Whichever use better fits whatever point I am trying to make.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Joce640k (829181)

        This is the real problem. The believers will go right on believing no matter what the conclusion is.

        • by jamesh (87723) on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:11AM (#31953090)

          This is the real problem. The believers will go right on believing no matter what the conclusion is.

          Truer words were never spoken. The results of the study can never be 'mobile phones cause cancer'. If there is any correlation it will be something like 'heavy use of a mobile phone increases your chance of brain cancer by x%' where x is likely to be quite small or we'd have noticed it by now, and certainly small enough that it won't have much meaning to anyone and they'll keep on doing the same thing as they always have.

          What we know right now is that talking on the phone while driving reduces your concentration by some amount (depending on a whole load of factors including the person) and increases your chances of an accident by some amount. It doesn't seem to stop anyone from doing it though. Neither does the threat of punishment. The numbers are small enough that people can rationalise them down to zero through the various cognitive biases that inhabit the human mind. In particular "it will never happen to me".

          (My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.)

          • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:39AM (#31953232)

            (My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.)

            My bet is that there will be more deaths by phone-attracted lightning than by phone radiation.

          • by TheLink (130905) on Friday April 23, 2010 @07:22AM (#31953448) Journal
            > My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.

            If that is true heavy cellphone use could actually help reduce your chances of getting cancer ;).

            So even if cancer risks actually increase for heavy users who never drive while using them (who are probably a small minority), the results of the study might be "no increase in cancer" to average person :).
            • by jamesh (87723)

              If that is true heavy cellphone use could actually help reduce your chances of getting cancer ;).

              Now _you_ should be a researcher! :)

              • by TheLink (130905)
                Hey I regularly tell people that eating roast pork can reduce your odds of getting cancer. As long as it causes you to die from a massive heart attack first ;).

                It's surprising so many people don't get it. They seem to think they'll never die. e.g. eat healthily and you'll never get cancer.

                It's more about adjusting the size of the slices on the "Ways to Die" pie chart, and not dying too early... ;).
          • by MobyDisk (75490)

            (My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.)

            (Agreed, but cancer costs society quite a lot more than most forms of death)

          • My largest concern is what chance my Droid sitting in my breast pocket might give me breast cancer (which men do get.) Especially whenever it's running hot, there's enough energy just in heat radiating off the thing that over the course of years I could see problems possibly arising.

            Of course, no more than any other electronic device, but until now I haven't been in the habit of keeping them within millimeters of my skin all day.

          • Actually, I think the information available about the dangers of phone usage while driving *does* stop some people from doing it. It would be nice if more people heeded the warnings. The results of this study may not convince as many people as some would hope, but if it convinces some people (it is or isn't safe) then it has value.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Presumably either "cell-phone usage causes cancer" or "the two are commonly caused by a third factor", unless you can think of a plausible mechanism by which having cancer would retroactively cause cell-phone usage.

  • I commute by train to work, and must listen, involuntarily, to the conversations that cell phone addicts have, and who seem to think that what they have to say is important and should be shared with the rest of the world.

    I don't know if there is a causal relationship between the use of cell phones in public and their owners' behavior . . . I think maybe that some of them have had shit for brains since birth.

    • I don't know if there is a causal relationship between the use of cell phones in public and their owners' behavior . . .

      There is. In the reverse order: behavior ==> use of fucking cell phones in public. And "shit for brains" ==> behavior, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      Problem:

      I commute by train to work, and must listen, involuntarily, to the conversations that cell phone addicts have, and who seem to think that what they have to say is important and should be shared with the rest of the world.

      Solution: Don't commute by train.

      General solution: Reduce interaction with strangers if you dislike such interaction.

      Rule: Reduce disliked situations.

      Law: Be happy.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I appreciate your effort in sharing the joy, but can I just get you to quickly suck my dick while you're at it?

        thanks. :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah, cause I'll be way happier getting hit by one of these same morons making calls while they're driving?
        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          Yeah, cause I'll be way happier getting hit by one of these same morons making calls while they're driving?

          Well, quite some times, replacing train commute for car gets you in humongous jams so they won't hit you very fast.

          It's a win/win/bore you out of your skull until you'd rather repeatedly stab your brain with a pencil, situation.

          • This is why I prefer my subway commute to any of my driving commutes; spending a half hour driving is a half hour wasted, but I can read on the subway. I liked my walking commute best of all, but I can't always live within two miles of work. I don't have a problem with cell phones (Note to NYC: Never let anyone wire your subways for cell phones), only morons who need to play their music so loud that even using headphones, it is clearly audible to people at the other end of the car.

            Of course, in both cases t

    • I noticed the very same thing on ham radio operators using VHF handy-talkies. Claims that RF is dangerous to brain cells shouldn't be underestimated...
       

    • by roju (193642)

      Perhaps they're the normal ones and you're the odd one? Who's to say? Buy some good earphones or earplugs and the problem will go away.

    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      Humans instinctively talk louder when they can't see their conversational partner.

  • Gimme a call when there is a report ready. Oh, while you're busy anyway: could you include a study on chemtrails, too ?
  • Control group? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by igaborf (69869) on Friday April 23, 2010 @05:14AM (#31952848)

    Yeah, but where are they going to find a control group of people who don't use a cellphone?

    </kidding>

    • by priegog (1291820)
      You might kid, but the control group is ESSENTIAL in a cohorts study in order to being able to stablish causality. Otherwise, what are they going to compare the cases against? The few old people who don't use cellphones?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Actually, I doubt there will be a strict dividing line between control and test. They'll use their cell phone records to determine how many minutes they are on the phone per month (possibly taking into account self reported use of hands free devices). You can't tell thousands of people that they may not buy a cell phone for the next 30 years, but you can track usage, and determine if the people talking for half an hour per month have more or less cancer than the people talking for three hours a day.
        • by skine (1524819)

          Exactly. If you were to measure, say, a son's height vs his father's height, you won't have a control group of people with no fathers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Charliemopps (1157495)
      Amish...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      Exactly what I was thinking. Especially as there are no Amish or so in Europe.

      Likely there will be no "control" as such and also no placebo group (after all proper medical research is done double blind with the real thing and placebo controls - however a placebo mobile phone just doesn't work), but there will be people that use their mobiles less than an hour a month, and others that don't put them down other than to change batteries. You can easily look at the difference between those two groups and still

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Using pre-1980 numbers for control won't work. Many forms of cancer have been increasing in prevalence over the years. The exact causes aren't known, but it's likely from a combination of reasons. Environmental contamination is one possibility; e.g. BPA and other hormone mimicking chemicals may affect the rates, as could other dietary changes like the increasing prevalence of salt, transfats and HFCS. Some or all of those may be harmless as far as cancer goes, but if any of them do matter, your control is w

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          That said, for a smaller scale study, it might be possible to pay individuals to use or not use a cell phone;

          We are not seeing anything like a brain cancer epidemic - and the research has to be done over a period of decades indeed. Paying people to not use mobile phones for decades won't work - and the numbers will be too small to be usable. I don't think we can detect any effect without looking at thousands of people over long periods of time; and even then it may be hard to detect any effects, if they exist.

          Medical tech has advanced a lot indeed over the last decades, that for sure. So detection rates changed.

        • by izomiac (815208)

          Using pre-1980 numbers for control won't work. Many forms of cancer have been increasing in prevalence over the years.

          Advances in treatment can explain a lot of that. Prevalence is simply the number of people with the disease, so if people are living with it longer (i.e. not cured or killed) then the prevalence will increase despite the incidence staying the same.

          The presence of so many confounding factors makes it nigh unto impossible to attribute any effect to cell phones without a real study.

          IMHO, this is why such a study is meaningless (albeit I'm sure the reasons for conducting it are political). A person who doesn't use a cell phone is probably less sociable, which is known to have health effects (lowered risk of catching stuff, but overall negat

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's next? A 45 year study into the health effects of forks?

    Who's John Galt?

  • 30 years... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday April 23, 2010 @05:30AM (#31952910) Journal
    In 30 years, brain cancer may very well be a curable disease.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Brain cancer, and brain diseases in general, are likely the last to be cured. Because on top of the whole "finding a cure for cancer in the first place", you need to be able to deliver the cure to the brain, and many drugs and chemicals will not pass the blood-brain barrier. And cancers of the brain are a tiny fraction of cancers; 1.4% overall, and 2.4% of deaths, so the priority is lower. So while I expect a few cancers to be effectively cured in that time frame, if any remain, brain cancer is likely to be
      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        blood-brain barrier ? What makes you think a cure to cancer must be blood delivered ? You know, the brain isn't a mystical box, we know how to remove big chunks of it without much damaging effects, we know very well a lot of its mechanisms. So many handicapping dysfunctions happen there that there are probably a lot more resources invested in brain studies that in any body part. Do you have any reason to expect brain cancers to be the last type of cancer cured instead of the first ?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the results turn out that there is a correlation, people will definitely stop using cell phones, And all wireless networks will be shut down.And people will move to caves because their neighbors are still using wireless. And then the cave peoples will rise and kill the few remaining idiots that continue to use these Dangerous Waves Which The Eye Cant See. And finally all will be well, because the air is clean from annnnnny kind of waves and everyone lives (statistically) 0.001 seconds longer! (not accoun

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:42AM (#31953246) Journal

    +1, we're going to keep studying this until it agrees with our preconceived ideas.

    • I don't have any opinion on the relationship between cell phone use and health. None. However, the more information the better, particularly in a field as fuzzy and complicated as health. Given how new cell phones are, I would be very much surprised if there was already enough research to consider the matter settled.

      Surely, if there is a correlation between cell phone use and this or that health problem, the effect is rather small. Otherwise, as others have noted, we would have already noticed the effect wi

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        I'd turn the question around: at what point would YOU consider it settled?

        I agree with you - I don't really have any preconceptions about it, and I'm certainly not an electroneurologist or whomever would be an expert in this field. I use cell phones all the time, and am frankly glad that such an issue is at least part of the design consideration.

        But as far as I can tell, every study I've seen has shown no issue. Since pretty much every study's objectivity today appears to be in doubt (somehow, somewhere,

  • by SciBrad (1119589) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:13AM (#31954882)
    Cannot break apart molecules. How exactly would an electromagnetic wave that can't ionize anything cause cancer? Usually to cause a cancer from radiation you need to cause some sort of ionization damage as far as I'm aware. Physics quite strongly says that these microwaves do not have the proper energy to do this, even if you have a lot of them. People can go on about 'heating effects' which is a common response I see to the non-ionizing radiation bit, but if that were the case, prolonged exposure to heat packs should also cause cancer. Luckily the body is quite good at dissipating heat. Based on physics there is no plausible mechanism for a cell phone to cause a cancer. The radiation just isn't energetic enough to break any bonds, and that is what counts.
    • Based on physics there is no plausible mechanism for a cell phone to cause a cancer.

      Careful about assuming you know the mechanism.

      Actually, it's best to be careful assuming that know anything at all....

      There are plenty of stories in medicine where we 'knew' something could or couldn't happen based on current theory, past observations or just because. Then the concept is carefully studied and whaddayaknow, we didn't know what we thought we knew. I personally rather doubt that cell phone use increased

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      People can go on about 'heating effects' which is a common response I see to the non-ionizing radiation bit, but if that were the case, prolonged exposure to heat packs should also cause cancer. Luckily the body is quite good at dissipating heat.

      Difference is, heat packs apply heat from outside the body, and we've evolved to dissipate that kind of heating, as you've said. Heating by radiation can cause localized heating inside the brain, which is quite different, and we don't have the same mechanisms for dissipating that type of heat. We've never evolved such mechanisms as we've never needed them before. Pretty much all chemical reaction rates are temperature dependent, and small changes in temperature can also affect the relative rates of diffe

    • by MattskEE (925706)

      There could be a sufficiently large molecular resonance for some important organic molecule, either DNA itself or maybe a protein or enzyme which will interact with the DNA. An example of this is lactose which has a resonance at 530GHz, well known to terahertz researchers. Complicated organic molecules which have very complex shapes, bonds, and mass distributions have multiple frequencies at which they resonate, with varying Q factors, which is very hard to derive. Proteins and DNA in particular I think

      • by SciBrad (1119589)
        Some replies: 1)This is basic quantum physics. The energy of a photon depends upon its frequency. Simple as that. Microwave photons in any quantity just don't have enough energy to ionize anything. The highest frequency I can think of for a cell would be around 2700MHz. That means the energy of 1 photon is only about 1e-5 eV. 2)Regarding the heat effects: The minuscule heating that would result from a cell phone (these aren't exactly things that carry lots of power, often less than 3 W) will fall off
  • Still a bad study (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Friday April 23, 2010 @12:37PM (#31957778) Homepage

    Unfortunately, although it's better than studies that try to quantify exposure by asking people to self-estimate their cell phone use (these studies are completely lacking in value, unfortunately), it's still a bad study protocol.

    The kind of people who take steps to reduce their microwave radiation exposure from cell phones are, unfortunately, very likely to be the same kinds of people who take steps to reduce their exposure to other possible risks, some of which actually do cause cancer. Not all of these confounding factors can be adjusted out.

    Keep in mind the placebo study which showed that not only does the use of a placebo benefit health, but the people who take the placebo regularly and according to instructions benefit more than people who take the placebo less meticulously.

  • Saw an article about some recent work with animal models that suggests cellphone usage MIGHT cause a significant (40%ish?) REDUCTION in probability of developing clinical alzheimers.

    I wonder if, should that turn out to be true, this study would pick it up?

  • haha

That does not compute.

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