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Does using a mobile phone give you cancer?

This has been a debate for many years – does using a mobile phone give you cancer? In the UK this week there seems to be a reinvigorated debate discussing all the implications of using a mobile phone. The World Health Organisation thinks that mobile phones will give you brain cancer, but there is still no hard proof. With local newspapers saying that a cup of coffee is actually just as bad for you, what is all the talk about?

Experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer have spent the last week studying evidence and the end result was inconclusive. They still don’t know for sure.

The main topic of debate is the radio frequency electromagnetic fields generated by mobile phones which are ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’. We think the word ‘possibly’ is key in that sentence. They recommend that using a hands free add on is best long term, just to make sure you don’t die, or get lumps on your head. Or get hair loss, or memory loss, or pimples. But, yeah we aren’t sure about any of them either.

My father, a 70 year nicotine addict said when he started smoking cigarettes that people didn’t know the risks involved with them either, it was only years later that they realised it was very dangerous. By then it was tough to give them up.

Kurt Straif, editor of the IARC says “There is some evidence of increased risk of glioma. But it is not at the moment clearly established that the use of mobile phones does, in fact, cause cancer in humans.” He also said that using a phone for texting is much safer as the phone isn’t close to your head for long periods of time, and exposure is reduced.

Obviously, the first people to mock the findings were the mobile phone industry who clearly don’t want people panicking and opting for tin cans and pieces of string, or possibly even smoke signals for communication. Many of the mobile phone industry experts say it is just another scare mongering PR piece to get people to panic. Last year, the IRAC said that there was no link at all between brain cancer and mobile phones.

CancerHelp UK say “Mobile phones are low powered radio devices that transmit and receive microwave radiation. The amount of radio wave energy that your body absorbs from a mobile phone can be measured. This is called Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), and this information should now be available on all mobile phones sold in the UK. The SAR of mobile phones in the UK has been within the international exposure guidelines for some years now.

Several research studies carried out in Europe and America have looked at large numbers of people using mobile phones. Most have found no link between brain tumours and mobile phones.

A large UK study reported in January 2006 that they could find no link between mobile phone use and a type of brain tumour called glioma. The study included information on over 2,500 people. They found no link between the amount of mobile phone use, length of time since first use, lifetime years of use or number of calls made. The study did not include any information on children using mobile phones. Over 2,500 people took part in this study. Only about 6 or 7 out of every 100 of them had used a mobile for more than 10 years.

A large Danish study has followed over 400,000 people – some of them for 21 years. In December 2006, these researchers published a paper that looked particularly at people who had been using a mobile phone for more than 10 years. They found no increased risk of brain tumour. A small 2007 study found that high use of mobile phones may very slightly increase the risk of developing tumours of the salivary glands, but this needs to be confirmed by other research.”

They added: “A large research programme called the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) was set up to investigate possible health effects of mobile phone radiation. In 2007 it reported the results of a 6 year research programme that found no link between short term mobile phone use and brain cancer. The MTHR recommended that no further research is needed on the effect of short term mobile phone use on cancer risk, although the committee noted that limited data is available for long term use and suggested that more research is needed in this area.”

KitGuru says: will we all end up with cancer due to mobile phone use? We probably won’t know for sure for another 10 years.

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