Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer? [Insert Answer Here]

by Matt Klassen on May 20, 2010

The strange thing about expensive scientific studies, at least for me, is that they never seem to prove or disprove anything. Sure there is some research that may suggest a particular course of action or a particular conclusion, but you’ll always find a counter-study that disproves those results or enough grey area within the results themselves to warrant the argument that further investigation is required.

With that said, over the past decade the World Health Organization (WHO) has been conducting one of the most controversial and highly publicized scientific studies in recent memory: do cellphones cause brain cancer? The World Health Organization’s answer after this epic study: we’re not quite sure.

While there’s nothing quite as dissatisfying as a ten year, $24 million dollar scientific project ending in frustratingly inconclusive results, some of the findings of the study still have some merit, which means that if you’re a compulsive cellphone user, you might want to read this.

In the study conducted by the WHO, researchers found little to no correlation between the radiation emitted from cellphones and the increased risk of either glioma, a tumor that develops in the brain or the spine, or meningioma, a tumor of the central nervous system. The simple fact is, even with moderate use of a cellphone, there is no increased risk of developing brain cancer. But if the fact that the results of the study were inconclusive provides you with some much needed relief, don’t relax just yet.

The notable finding of the study was that among the group of people that used their cellphones the most, spending significant time talking on the device, there was a 10% elevation in their risk of contracting glioma, meaning, surpise suprise, that if your cellphone is attached to your ear, it’s probably not good for your brain.

What makes this study all the more important, at least from the perspective of mobile companies the world over, is that if it was found that the radiation from cellphones was linked to the development of brain cancer, it could, in the short term, seriously impact the growth of the mobile market. Of course, with that said, we humans have never been terribly smart when it comes to avoiding things that kill us over time, so I’m sure the damage to the mobile market would be quickly repaired.

Regardless of the results of the research, do we really need an extended scientific study to tell use that it’s not healthy to place a device that radiates energy right next to our brains for significant amounts of time? As early as ten years ago, studies connecting tobacco use to lung cancer were still widely debated, but now there clear agreement that tobacco, in addition to other carcinogens found in cigarettes, is really not that good for us. The point, even with these inconclusive results it would be naive to think that cellphone users are in the clear.

Don’t be surprised, then, if in another five to ten years more studies are conducted as we really start to learn what the long term effects of cellphone radiation are. If there current studies are now showing that dedicated cellphones users are already at an increased risk for cancer, it’s certainly plausible that in another decade you’ll find the same increased risk in the moderate cellphone user demographic as well.

So the next time you put your mobile device to your ear, take a second to think of the time you spend on the phone. Your brain will thank you.

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Of Wi-Fi, Smartphones, and Airplanes —
August 15, 2012 at 6:25 am

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