Here's the latest from Medscape (a very trusted medical resource for patients and practitioners alike):
"May 31, 2011 — The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer. According to the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), radiofrequency electromagnetic fields have been classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (group 2B) on the basis of an increased risk for glioma that some studies have associated with the use of wireless phones.
This announcement was based on an extensive review of studies on cell phone safety by a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries, who have been meeting regularly to evaluate the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. They reviewed exposure data, studies of cancer in humans and experimental animal models, and other relevant data.
More specifically, the IARC Monograph Working Group discussed and evaluated literature that included several exposure categories involving radiofrequency electromagnetic fields:
Inconsistent Data and Opinions
Cellular telephones have become an integral part of everyday life, and the number of users is estimated at 5 billion globally. However, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News, there has been growing concern over possible health risks associated with the use of cell phones. In particular, some data have suggested that their use, especially over the long term, represent a "significant" risk for brain tumors.
But study results have been inconsistent, although some European countries have taken precautionary measures aimed specifically at children.
Some of the strongest evidence supporting a link between brain tumors and cell phone use comes from a series of Swedish studies, led by Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD, from the Department of Oncology, Orebro Medical Center. These studies showed that risk increased with the number of cumulative hours of use, higher radiated power, and length of cell phone use. They also reported that younger users had a higher risk. (Int J Oncol. 2006;28:509-518;Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2006;79:630-639; Arch Environ Health. 2004;59:132-137; Pathophysiology.2009;16:113-122).
The issue of cell phone safety was to have been settled once and for all by the huge 13-nation industry-funded Interphone study. But to date, the industry-funded Interphone studies found no increased risk for brain tumors from cell phone use, with only 4 exceptions. The findings contradicted the Swedish studies, which were independent of industry funding.
Consistent with the literature, there is no consensus among physicians and scientists about the severity of risk, or if one even exists. One issue in attempting to evaluate the potential connection between brain tumors and cell phone use is the relatively short period of time that these devices have been heavily used in a large population and the long latency period for many tumors.
The National Cancer Institute, for example, has stated that although a consistent link has not been establishedbetween cell phone use and cancer, "scientists feel that additional research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn." In a similar fashion, the American Cancer Society points out that even though the weight of the evidence has shown no association between cell phone use and brain cancer, information on the potential health effects of very long-term use, or use in children, is simply not available.
Evidence Strong Enough
The WHO established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project in 1996, in response to public and governmental concern, with the goal of evaluating the possibility of adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields. In a press release issued last year, the WHO stated that it would conduct a formal health risk assessment of radiofrequency fields exposure by 2012, but in the interim, the IARC would review the carcinogenic potential of mobile phones this year.
Jonathan Samet, MD, chairman of the working group, notes that "the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification.
"The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk," he said in a news release.
A full report summarizing the main conclusions and evaluations of the IARC Working Group is slated to be published online soon in The Lancet Oncology and in print in its July 1 issue."
Note that the large 13-country study that published that they found no changes in cancer risk (except on 4 occasions) with cell phone use was INDUSTRY-SPONSORED! Complete bias!
Overall - be wary: use headsets (not Bluetooth), try to minimize use of cell phones and other wireless phones (includes at home) and turn your signal OFF before handing your phone over to your baby or young child!
Maybe the ol' land line ain't so bad after all...?
Here's an interesting study that just came out regarding the radiation recieved from airport scanners. Per Physician's Watch (online physician newsletter):
"The backscatter x-ray scanners that were recently installed at U.S. airports pose 'no significant threat of radiation,' authors conclude in a special article in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
While the full-body scanners do emit ionizing radiation, the authors note that it would take 50 scans to get the same amount of radiation as one dental x-ray, and 1000 scans for the same amount of radiation as a chest x-ray.
For 1 million frequent flyers who make 10 trips weekly for a year, the backscatter scans could contribute four additional cancers. Meanwhile, radiation from cosmic rays received while flying would contribute 600 cancers.
The authors conclude: 'Based on what is known about the scanners, passengers should not fear going through the scans for health reasons, as the risks are truly trivial.'"
Archives of Internal Medicine article (Free PDF)
What's the bottom line? The jury is still out on whether on not these scanners are harmful. Keep in mind that this study used ESTIMATED data collected from the government, not independent measured data (ie, a non-governemental agency goes out and actually measures the exact radiation levels in and around the machines), as pointed out to me by a friend in Science Policy (Thanks Jeremy!). It will be interesting to see the long term (ie, after years and years) studies on these devices. Another friend from med school pointed out that the radiation estimates are actually calculated per unit area of skin (epidermis) but not for the entire body, meaning that if the skin is the only body part exposed to the radiation, skin cancers are a possibility.
So, flyer beware. I'm going for the pat-down.
All the best,
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