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Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
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Michael Finneran | May 27, 2016 |

 
   

New Study Shows Possible Cellphone-Cancer Link

New Study Shows Possible Cellphone-Cancer Link National Toxicology Program releases partial results of a study that has found possible link between cellphone exposure and two types of cancer in rats.

National Toxicology Program releases partial results of a study that has found possible link between cellphone exposure and two types of cancer in rats.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP), a unit with the Department of Health and Human Services, has released partial results of a multiyear study that claims to have a found a link between cellphone radiation and two types of tumors in rats, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The cellphone industry has maintained for years that cellphone usage has no known health effects, despite insistence from many parties (often on rather shaky scientific grounds) that cellphones do contribute to cancer and possibly other health problems. NTP said it will not release full results of the study until fall 2017.

In the study, conducted in an underground lab, the NTP exposed 2,500 rats and mice to radio frequency (RF) energy in the 800-MHz and 1900-MHz bands in intervals of 10 minutes of exposure followed by 10 minutes of no exposure. The exposure lasted for 18 hours per day over a period of two years.

Scientists found glioma tumors in glial brain cells and schwannoma tumors of the heart, the NTP said. The cancer association appeared in male rats; they found no similar results in female rats. When exposed to RF energy in utero, newborn rats tended to have slightly lower birth weights than those not exposed.

The cellphone and health industries have been engaged in a long-running battle over what, if any, ill health effects could be contributed to cellphones. The current standard for RF exposure, developed in the 1990s, looked solely at the heating effects of such exposure. The most recent fusillade came in 2011 when the World Health Organization (WHO) classified cellphone radiation as a Group 2B possible carcinogen. That disclosure was not particularly damaging given the fact that certain pickled vegetables and coffee share that categorization.

However, the two types of tumors identified in the NTP study have also been discovered in some epidemiological studies. Those studies, which have found instances of gliomas and acoustic neuromas, were key factors in the WHO's decision to classify cellphone radiation as a possible carcinogen.

While I have absolutely no medical training, I have monitored this issue for the past two decades and was fairly confident that the adverse health claims were the delusions of hysterical worrywarts and Birkenstock-shod Luddites. My reasoning: Cellphone use is so prevalent that people would be dropping like flies if there were any adverse health effect!

Much analysis still needs to be done. Not all things that effect rats effect humans. Was the exposure a realistic analog to actual cellphone use? What other elements could possibly have been at work? But make no mistake about it, this is a real scientific study that requires the attention of the industry and regulatory agencies.

As of this writing, the CTIA wireless association has issued no statement on the NTP's report. But it will, no doubt, and that statement will claim this is all so much rubbish.

I'm sure the worrywarts will change how they use cellphones (if they use them at all) -- and anyone looking to put up a cell tower is going to find greatly increased attendance at the public hearings. I won't be changing my usage patterns, but I will continue to monitor the issue -- as most of us should. With science education having taken a backseat to "feel good about yourself studies," there's no telling where this will lead.

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