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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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  • Cause or effect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Friday April 23, 2010 @05:58AM (#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?

  • Control group? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by igaborf (69869) on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:14AM (#31952848)

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

    </kidding>

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:37AM (#31952922)

    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.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:39AM (#31952932) Homepage

    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 @07:11AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @07:11AM (#31953092)

    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. :)

  • by Stooshie (993666) on Friday April 23, 2010 @07:20AM (#31953142) Journal
    The reason it is such a large study is to counteract the problems you mention (like some people may drink green tea and have a lower risk of cancer anyway). A big study makes it more likely that there are the same proportion of green tea drinkers in the control group and the test group.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday April 23, 2010 @07:42AM (#31953246) Journal

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

  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Friday April 23, 2010 @07:49AM (#31953278)
    Yeah, cause I'll be way happier getting hit by one of these same morons making calls while they're driving?
  • by TheLink (130905) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:22AM (#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 Benfea (1365845) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:53AM (#31953810)

    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 without the assistance of detailed research and statistical analysis. If a problem is found, hopefully sufficiently detailed research will help cell phone manufacturers make cell phones that minimize or even eliminate the effect.

  • Wow! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gbutler69 (910166) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:04AM (#31953972) Homepage
    It's comments like this on a site supposedly frequented by those most educated in science and engineering that make me believe that the future of our society and civilization is doomed to the ignorance and intellectual laziness of the masses. All the movies about zombies that get made are really about our innate understanding that our end will be at the hands of a mass of unthinking humanity that only wishes to engorge itself on the fruits of the "BRAINS"!
  • Re:What, now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackfrancis75 (911664) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:44AM (#31954502)

    .. many people are losing faith in science.

    IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mathinker (909784) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:46AM (#31954538) Journal

    It's comments like this on a site supposedly frequented by those most educated in science and engineering that make me believe that a good portion of these frequenters are doomed to ... give the rest of us a bad name.

    Yes, great, you may have a point there (I think you overestimate the ability of most people to have a broad knowledge of various subjects --- the post might have been made by a genius computer games programmer who has zero knowledge outside his narrow field of expertise, for example), but really, couldn't you have also explained to the poor, ignorant AC, whoever he is, that the radiation generated by a cell phone on standby is much smaller than that generated by the same phone being used for communication, and that he could have understood this himself if he had just thought about the fact that cell phone batteries are rated by how long they can power the phone in both modes from a full charge, and all cell phones have much longer full-charge standby times than full-charge talking times?

  • Re:30 years... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:22AM (#31955934)
    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 one of them. Beyond that, the study could produce preliminary results well before the 30 years are up that may be useful; dismissing it due to the slow return on investment is ignoring the usefulness of the ongoing results.
  • Re:What, now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kozz (7764) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:28AM (#31956012)

    .. many people are losing faith in science.

    IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

    Come on. It's an expression. I think you knew that. It's perfectly clear what the GPP meant [reference.com].

    1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

  • IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

    There's a scientific meta-claim that submitting theories to trial by experiment (and discarding the theories which disagree with the world) is likely to produce good theories about how the world works.

    How would you verify this? Experimentally? Why would you believe that experimenting is a good way to learn the truth?

    Yes, in the end I'm asking "you believe that what you see (perceive) is a reasonably accurate reflecting of what the world really is like; why?" But my answer is still the same: there is an element of faith in science.

    That said, I want that kept small, carefully watched and well understood.

  • Still a bad study (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Friday April 23, 2010 @01:37PM (#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.

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