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  #1  
Old 24 July 2008, 07:47 AM
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Icon27 Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer?

http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/condi....ap/index.html

Quote:
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) -- The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer.

[snip]

Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science, and he believes that people should take action now, especially when it comes to children.

[snip]

A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university's center for environmental oncology.

"The question is, do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain?" she said from her cell phone, while using the hands-free speaker phone, as recommended. "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe."
Bolding mine

So, we have a person in a position of authority openly using incomplete and unrelable data to scare people.
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  #2  
Old 24 July 2008, 08:32 AM
trlkly
 
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Even worse, he's even using the "FOR THE CHILDREN" tactic.
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  #3  
Old 24 July 2008, 06:23 PM
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This is called job security for snopes, Barbara and the mods.
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  #4  
Old 24 July 2008, 06:47 PM
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Jahungo Jahungo is offline
 
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I don't know, in a lot of ways what he's saying makes sense.

It is hard to conclusively prove something scientifically. For research to be published, it has to statistically show that something is true, otherwise the null hypothesis (i.e. cell phones do not cause harm) is assumed to be true. This generally means proving it at a 95% significance level.

This is especially true with humans (which obviously cannot be directly manipulated for ethical reasons) and even more so with long-term effects. People have only been using cell phones regularly for so long, and so data on the long term effects is just beginning to come out. Will time actually prove a problem? Maybe, maybe not. But remember, the Romans used lead pipes without ever knowing they caused harm, and people used to just play with radioactive materials, thinking they were harmless.

Basically, all the article is saying is "Better safe than sorry." Am I going to give up using a cell phone entirely? Of course not. But might I try to limit any possible risk by taking long calls on a head set? It seems reasonable. An easy solution can potentially avoid a serious problem in the future, so why not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by trlkly View Post
Even worse, he's even using the "FOR THE CHILDREN" tactic.
I believe he says this because the limited, inconclusive data suggesting any problem suggests there may be a greater risk for young children (and it wouldn't surprise me if it only had effects on a developing brain - the same is true for triggers).

ETA: For example, this 2008 study did find a statistically significant increase in risk of a certain type of cancer in regular or heavy cell phone users:
Quote:
Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Feb 15;167(4):457-67. Epub 2007 Dec 6. Links
Cellular phone use and risk of benign and malignant parotid gland tumors--a nationwide case-control study.

Sadetzki S, Chetrit A, Jarus-Hakak A, Cardis E, Deutch Y, Duvdevani S, Zultan A, Novikov I, Freedman L, Wolf M.
Cancer and Radiation Epidemiology Unit, Gertner Institute, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel. siegals@gertner.health.gov.il

The objective of this nationwide study was to assess the association between cellular phone use and development of parotid gland tumors (PGTs). The methods were based on the international INTERPHONE study that aimed to evaluate possible adverse effects of cellular phone use. The study included 402 benign and 58 malignant incident cases of PGTs diagnosed in Israel at age 18 years or more, in 2001-2003, and 1,266 population individually matched controls. For the entire group, no increased risk of PGTs was observed for ever having been a regular cellular phone user (odds ratio = 0.87; p = 0.3) or for any other measure of exposure investigated. However, analysis restricted to regular users or to conditions that may yield higher levels of exposure (e.g., heavy use in rural areas) showed consistently elevated risks. For ipsilateral use, the odds ratios in the highest category of cumulative number of calls and call time without use of hands-free devices were 1.58 (95% confidence interval: 1.11, 2.24) and 1.49 (95% confidence interval: 1.05, 2.13), respectively. The risk for contralateral use was not significantly different from 1. A positive dose-response trend was found for these measurements. Based on the largest number of benign PGT patients reported to date, our results suggest an association between cellular phone use and PGTs.
It's not just fearmongering, there is some science behind what he says. The science is very tentative, true, but these questions of safety are not being raised out of thin air or pure speculation. While this study may prove an aberration, it may be confirmed by later studies (especially as time passes, and people have been using cell phones longer).

ETA2: Let's compare this to something we all know is pure evil: smoking. The effects of smoking on health are clear and dire. Yet it took quite some time to prove that smoking is actually bad for you. Why? Because one doesn't see effects of smoking after five years (well, not in terms of "serious" stuff like cancer, emphysema, and heart disease). It takes a long period of regular smoking to increase those risks. And even among people who have smoked a pack a day since they were 16, in how many of those people do you see serious disease at age 25? 35? Even 45? It takes a long time for the serious diseases to show up.

The same may be true with cell phones. It may not be, but there is at least some evidence that suggests it may. So I think telling people to be careful is perfectly good advice.

Last edited by Jahungo; 24 July 2008 at 07:12 PM.
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  #5  
Old 24 July 2008, 07:11 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
It is hard to conclusively prove something scientifically. For research to be published, it has to statistically show that something is true, otherwise the null hypothesis (i.e. cell phones do not cause harm) is assumed to be true. This generally means proving it at a 95% significance level.

This is especially true with humans (which obviously cannot be directly manipulated for ethical reasons) and even more so with long-term effects. People have only been using cell phones regularly for so long, and so data on the long term effects is just beginning to come out. Will time actually prove a problem? Maybe, maybe not. But remember, the Romans used lead pipes without ever knowing they caused harm, and people used to just play with radioactive materials, thinking they were harmless.
The thing is that we have plenty of data, radio devices has been around for a long time and the effects are easily measured. I believe the Swedish government agency in charge of various radiation hazards (don't ask me why this has been dropped on their desk, as it's not radiation, it's electromagnetic fields). In a statement a couple of years ago in response to a politician claiming that he had become impotent from using his phone and demanding legislation, they said (quoting from memory): "The strength of the fields possible to generate from a mobile phone battery is nowhere near the intensity that can cause any measurable effect on human tissue. We do not, however, encourage that it's used in a way contrary to how it's supposed to use, such as with the antenna inside the ear or inside the mouth.".

To put things in perspective, there isn't even a clear correlation between train drivers, who spend their entire working day standing in front of a huge electric motor and under a powerline, and we are talking about fields which are several magnitudes stronger.

Add to this that people who claims to be sensitive to mobile phones have been tested in blind tests, and there has been no correlation between their troubles and if the phones are on, but there was a strong correlation between their troubles and what they where told about the phone being on (to the point of a couple getting violently ill and one having to be fetched by ambulance, despite the phone being off).

People are always scared of new stuff. Steel pens, trains, flying and so on. It'll pass.
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  #6  
Old 24 July 2008, 07:22 PM
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Jahungo Jahungo is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
The thing is that we have plenty of data, radio devices has been around for a long time and the effects are easily measured. I believe the Swedish government agency in charge of various radiation hazards (don't ask me why this has been dropped on their desk, as it's not radiation, it's electromagnetic fields). In a statement a couple of years ago in response to a politician claiming that he had become impotent from using his phone and demanding legislation, they said (quoting from memory): "The strength of the fields possible to generate from a mobile phone battery is nowhere near the intensity that can cause any measurable effect on human tissue. We do not, however, encourage that it's used in a way contrary to how it's supposed to use, such as with the antenna inside the ear or inside the mouth.".
We have plenty of acute data, but little long-term data, since these things simply haven't been in common use that long. Like i mentioned before, 10 years isn't really that long in terms of slowly-manifesting diseases like cancer. Just because there is no measureable acute effect does not rule out any long-term effects.

Quote:
To put things in perspective, there isn't even a clear correlation between train drivers, who spend their entire working day standing in front of a huge electric motor and under a powerline, and we are talking about fields which are several magnitudes stronger.
I'd have to see the study and some numbers to really test this claim. However, a cell phone to the head is in much closer proximity than a powerline and elecric motor. Also, there are presumably things between the train driver and these electromagnetic sources (such as metal casing or the train roof), while there re none for cell phones. Also, presumably the electromagnetic signal is not identical in these two cases.

Quote:
Add to this that people who claims to be sensitive to mobile phones have been tested in blind tests, and there has been no correlation between their troubles and if the phones are on, but there was a strong correlation between their troubles and what they where told about the phone being on (to the point of a couple getting violently ill and one having to be fetched by ambulance, despite the phone being off).
I don't believe there are any acute symptoms. Neither is anyone (well, anyone in the OP or my cite) saying that they are. They are talking about long term, chronic exposure, which is totally different.
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  #7  
Old 25 July 2008, 10:27 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
We have plenty of acute data, but little long-term data, since these things simply haven't been in common use that long. Like i mentioned before, 10 years isn't really that long in terms of slowly-manifesting diseases like cancer. Just because there is no measureable acute effect does not rule out any long-term effects.
We've been using radio and strong electromagnetic fields for more than one generation. How much more long term do we need.

Quote:
I'd have to see the study and some numbers to really test this claim. However, a cell phone to the head is in much closer proximity than a powerline and elecric motor.
It's closer, but it has a tiny, tiny battery, compared to the power that drives a train.

Quote:
Also, there are presumably things between the train driver and these electromagnetic sources (such as metal casing or the train roof), while there re none for cell phones.
Get real, you don't block field strong enough to pull over a kilometer worth of iron ore with some sheet metal.

Quote:
Also, presumably the electromagnetic signal is not identical in these two cases.
I think there is only one kind of electromagnetic fields. There's nothing magicl about them, it's just a very well understood physical phenomena.

Quote:
They are talking about long term, chronic exposure, which is totally different.
Yep, but they have nothing to indicate that such long term effects exist. We could just as well blame it on ghosts with the amount of evidence they have.
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  #8  
Old 25 July 2008, 12:35 PM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Quote:
"The question is, do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain?"
Is there any other way to play it?
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  #9  
Old 25 July 2008, 12:53 PM
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Tarquin Farquart Tarquin Farquart is offline
 
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Quote:
"The question is, do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain?" she said from her cell phone, while using the hands-free speaker phone, as recommended. "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe."
I often see people using their hands-free phone whilst holding the phone in their hand, surely defeating the point...
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  #10  
Old 25 July 2008, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
I often see people using their hands-free phone whilst holding the phone in their hand, surely defeating the point...
AIUI, the point is to keep it away from your head. So your hand is supposedly better because it's farther from your brain.
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  #11  
Old 26 July 2008, 07:27 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
AIUI, the point is to keep it away from your head. So your hand is supposedly better because it's farther from your brain.
And, since most handsfrees are Bluetooth today, that will still not make sense if one believes the theory that radio waves are bad.
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  #12  
Old 27 July 2008, 03:02 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Cell Phone

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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
And, since most handsfrees are Bluetooth today [...]
Can that really be true? Maybe in Scandinavia?

Also, though I agree that it rarely makes much sense when you look at the evidence, the idea is that there's something especially bad about the much stronger signal of the phone relative to bluetooth or other short range signals, or that there's something bad about certain frequencies. (For the same reason Wi-fi is sometimes criticized because one of it's channels is pretty much the same as a microwave. People don't seem to understand that the intensity and mixing in a microwave is what makes it so powerful. Ordinary microwaves are, as far as we know, not harmful. This has led o some people misunderstanding that all Wi-fi or even that all network devices operate in the microwave oven range but they don't.)

Last edited by ganzfeld; 27 July 2008 at 03:09 AM.
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  #13  
Old 27 July 2008, 04:19 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Can that really be true? Maybe in Scandinavia?
I don't even think they sell handsfree sets that are not wireless anymore, and I sure don't see them used. It's just too much hassle with wires, it really makes them pointless.

Quote:
Also, though I agree that it rarely makes much sense when you look at the evidence, the idea is that there's something especially bad about the much stronger signal of the phone relative to bluetooth or other short range signals, or that there's something bad about certain frequencies. (For the same reason Wi-fi is sometimes criticized because one of it's channels is pretty much the same as a microwave. People don't seem to understand that the intensity and mixing in a microwave is what makes it so powerful. Ordinary microwaves are, as far as we know, not harmful. This has led o some people misunderstanding that all Wi-fi or even that all network devices operate in the microwave oven range but they don't.)
I think the problem is that people are messing up radiation and fields, treating them as they are the same thing. Radiation is a stream of particles that may knock out parts of your DNA, while fields can at most cause heating. The heating caused by a mobile phone is probably more due to it being pressed against the ear than any fields it emits, and definately less than goos winter headwear. Also, the heating is decreasing exponentially with distance, so it's less than what you experience on the skin.
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  #14  
Old 28 July 2008, 12:51 AM
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Cell Phone

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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
I think the problem is that people are messing up radiation and fields, treating them as they are the same thing. Radiation is a stream of particles that may knock out parts of your DNA, while fields can at most cause heating.
Wireless communication does use radiation. Not all radiation can "knock out parts" of your DNA, which happens to be very small.
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  #15  
Old 28 July 2008, 05:11 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Wireless communication does use radiation.
Nope, it uses electromagnetic fields, sometimes mistakenly refered to as radiation, but a completely different thing.
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  #16  
Old 28 July 2008, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Nope, it uses electromagnetic fields, sometimes mistakenly refered to as radiation, but a completely different thing.
Can I ask you to support that claim with some credible references?

ETA - I think you must be limiting the word "radiation" to mean only radiation of high-energy nuclear particles. But the term isn't so limited, even though it's often used that way. Any electromagnetic field can produce radiation and, if communication is established, by definition does so because radiation is simply the transfer of energy through waves, particles, light, etc.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 28 July 2008 at 05:31 AM.
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  #17  
Old 26 September 2008, 05:56 AM
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Icon22 Scientists warn Congress of cancer risk for cell phone use

The potential link between mobile telephones and brain cancer could be similar to the link between lung cancer and smoking -- something tobacco companies took 50 years to recognize, according to US scientists' warning.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080926...ancertelephone
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  #18  
Old 26 September 2008, 06:38 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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I think you must be limiting the word "radiation" to mean only radiation of high-energy nuclear particles.
Correct. From what I learned back in highschool/university (or as close as you get in Swedish equivalents), radiation is particle streams, while fields are, for lack of a better description, potential differences.

So, radioactive decay is radiation, the electron gun in a CRT produce radiation (which is then stopped at the screen), magnetic fields are fields as are electric fields. Light, being the odd beast that it is, is both and neither.

In common language, this has detoriated, so most people call everything radiation except wheat fields, but physically, they are quite different beasts, even though one occasionally can cause the other.
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Old 26 September 2008, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Correct. From what I learned back in highschool/university (or as close as you get in Swedish equivalents)...
If you mean högskola it's usually translated as 'university college'.
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  #20  
Old 26 September 2008, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
In common language, this has detoriated, [...]
The "common language" meaning has been in use for over 300 years and was applied by the first scientists studying the electromagnetic spectrum, long before the discovery of high-energy radiation. If anything deteriorated it was the "common language" meaning.
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