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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cell Phones and Cancer: The Static in the Debate

A recently published European study boldly and with much confusion declares that children are not at an increased risk of cancer as a result of cell phone use. Knowledgeable commentators has questioned the reliability of the data and analysis resulting in questioning the veracity of the European study altogether.

Microwave News reported:
'The first study to look at brain tumors among children and teenagers who have used cell phones came out today and it shows no increased risk. Well, actually, the study, known as CEFALO, does indicate a higher risk —the problem is that it found a higher risk for all the kids who used a phone more than once a week for six months, regardless of how much time they spent on the phone. Because the risk does not go up with more use, the CEFALO team argues that the results argue against a true association.

Professor Franklin E. Mier, PhD, CID, Environmental and Occupational Health SciencesCUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, commented:
"A study may provide "evidence for," or more rarely, evidence against an increased risk associated with an exposure. The exposure should be further characterized by level and duration. The evidence might further be characterized as "clear," "some" or "equivocal." In studies of people, either single studies or a collections of studies, "chance, bias, and confounding" must be evaluated, which impacts the strength of the evidence derived from the study. Studies failing to find an association should be characterized as "null" rather than "negative."

"Each newly published study should be characterized in the context of previous studies, evaluated as a group. IARC characterized the body of evidence previous to the study reported here as "limited." Those who wish to make their own evaluation should read the IARC monograph in detail. Personally, I don't think the body of evidence will ever advance beyond "limited" evidence. Also, resources and media attention will continue to be devoted to restudying this exposure (as opposed to other exposures of concern) because rich people use cell phones.

Dramatically conflicting studies are now surfacing. The signal is not yet clear and the static will have to resolve before the causal connection between cell phone use and cancer can be ruled out.

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