Monday, December 21, 2009

Cellular Disconnect

by Zeena Dorai, M.D., FACS
Chief, Neurosurgery, Northwest Hospital; Director, Neuro-oncology, Sinai Hospital
Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute

Results of a 30-year Scandinavian study bring hopeful news for avid cellphone users. Researchers found no increase in certain types of brain cancer (gliomas and meningiomas) among nearly 6 million men and women in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden between 1974 and 2003.

Reported in a brief communication to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute , these results seem to dampen the speculation that a link exists between cellphone use and brain tumors.

Although the study notes a gradual increase in the incidence of brain tumors over time, the authors speculate that the cause likely has multiple factors, and may simply reflect an increase in diagnoses due to advances in technology. The study further reports no change in incidence of brain tumors during the sharp increase in cellphone usage during the 1990s.

However, the authors do note that the results of a second study “leave open the possibility of a small to moderate increased risk for glioma among the heaviest users of mobile phones." Preliminary unpublished data from the INTERPHONE study, a 10-year case–control study of brain tumors conducted internationally by the World Health Organization, suggest that those who engage in extensive cellphone use do face a higher risk of developing brain tumors later in life. The lead investigator stated that the study report would include a “public health message.”

It is clear that these results are not without controversy, and the bottom line is that the long-term effects of radiation from cellphone use are not certain. Nevertheless, some simple steps and common-sense practices can be taken to minimize the risks of radiation from cellphones:

1. Limit cellphone use and use land lines whenever possible.

2. Limit use of Bluetooth devices, which emit low-level radiation even when not in use.

3. Use a wired hands-free device.

4. Avoid carrying cell phones on your body.

5. Do not keep mobile phones close to you while you are sleeping.

6. Limit children’s use of cellular phones.

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