Cellphones and cancer: what you should read before panicking

The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report classifies cellphones, which also includes all devices that emit wireless radio frequencies, as possibly carcinogenic to humans, thus sparking major concerns everywhere since cell phones are now used by nearly 5 billion people worldwide.

But there's no need to panic - yet. Firstpost gives you a quick look at what various studies are saying about WHO's latest report and what the report itself says. Read on before you decide to ditch that cellphone forever.

 Cellphones and cancer: what you should read before panicking

Cellphones may be linked to brain tumours. Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters.

1) The International Research Agency for Cancer (IRAC) states that there has been growing concern over the last few years regarding exposure to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by wireless communication devices, which includes your mobile phone.

These kinds of radiation are being seen as a possible health hazard. The agency has classified radio frequency fields under the head "possibly carcinogenic" to humans. There are currently over 266 agents classified under this category. You can view the full report here. Reason to be careful, but not to chuck that phone into the garbage can.

2) The National Cancer Institute (NIC) is an undertaking of the US Department of Health and Human Services and part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIC website says that the reason why cellphones are under scrutiny is because they emit a kind of RF, which is a kind of radiation.

However, in most studies, research has not been conducted for a significantly long period of time. To state anything conclusively would be to make a hurried statement because very often the studies employ different methods of research, data sampling, etc. You can view NIC’s take on whether cellphones cause cancer here. So breathe a bit easier.

3) The National Health Services (NHS) in Britain have given a full analysis of the report released by IRAC. The NHS points out that cellphones have been indicated as  ‘possibly carcinogenic’ and it elaborates on the shortcomings of the study.

It also clearly states that mobile phones do not cause cancer; rather there are links between brain tumours and cellphone usage and that to make a resounding claim on cancer would require more investigation. To read up more on the NHS site, click here.

4)  The Interphone study group has been conducting studies on the relationship between cellphones and brain tumours since 2006. The studies have been published in the British Medical Journal as well. While the studies could not find a conclusive link between the two, it cautions parents against allowing children to use cellphones from an early age. Click here for the reports.

5) And if you're hoping to get some technically sound information regarding the nature of radiation that is emitted via cellphones, we suggest that you click here. The article is published online by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the author is using physics to argue that cellphones do not cause cancer.

While its not possible for the studies to state conclusively whether cellphones can cause brain cancer, some do’s and don’t have been set in place and you could follow those to reduce cancer risks.For a list of do’s and don’t, click here.


Updated Date: Jun 02, 2011 14:03:23 IST