Small brain cancer risk for cell phone users – WHO

Small brain cancer risk for cell phone users – WHO

Prolonged cell phone usage could increase the risk of brain cancer, the World Health Organisation has warned.

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The World Health Organisation (WHO)’€™s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), say there is a possibility that exposures to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by wireless phones (cell phones) might induce long’€term health effects, in particular an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.

The IARC said that over the past few years, there has been mounting concern about the possibility of adverse health effects resulting from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.

The number of mobile phone subscriptions is estimated at 5 billion globally with young children and adults increasingly exposed.

The statement follows a meeting of 31 scientists from 14 countries in France last month, to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. The Working Group discussed and evaluated the available literature on exposures involving these fields.   These included occupational exposures to radar and microwaves, environmental exposures associated with transmission of signals for radio, television and wireless telecommunication, and personal exposures associated with the use of wireless telephones. They also investigated the exposure data, the studies of cancer in humans, the studies of cancer in experimental animals, and the mechanistic and other relevant data.

‘€œThe evidence and results were reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, a slow growing non-cancerous tumour that develops on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain,’€ the WHO said.

The group said the information they reviewed was inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. They also did not quantitate the risk, however, one study of past cell phone use (up to the year 2004), showed a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users (reported average: 30 minutes per day over a 10’€year period).

Dr Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, USA, and Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that ‘€œthe evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion that there could be some risk of developing cancer due to mobile phone use.’€   ‘€œTherefore, we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk,’€ said Samet.

‘€œGiven the potential consequences for public health of these findings, it is important that additional research be conducted into the long’€term, heavy use of mobile phones,” said IARC Director, Christopher Wild.   He said pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposures such as hands’€free devices or texting.

*The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. Its mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control.

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