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Mobiles linked to brain tumours
Published on 28 Sep. 2008 12:32 AM IST
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The potential link between mobile phones and brain cancer could be similar to the link between lung cancer and smoking - something tobacco companies took 50 years to recognize, according to a warning by US scientists. Researchers are currently split on the level of danger the biological effects of the magnetic field emitted by cellphones poses to humans. However, society "must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer where we ... waited until every 'i' was dotted and 't' was crossed before warnings were issued," said David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, in testimony before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. "Precaution is warranted even in the absence of absolutely final evidence concerning the magnitude of the risk" - especially for children, said Carpenter. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute - one of the top US cancer research centers - said that most studies "claiming that there is no link between cellphones and brain tumors are outdated, had methodological concerns and did not include sufficient numbers of long-term cellphone users." Many studies denying a link defined regular cellphone use as "once a week", he said. "Recalling the 70 years that it took to remove lead from paint and gasoline and the 50 years that it took to convincingly establish the link between smoking and lung cancer, I argue that we must learn from our past to do a better job of interpreting evidence of potential risk," said Herberman. A brain tumour can take dozens of years to develop, the scientists said. Carpenter and Herberman both told the committee the brain cancer risk from cellphone use is far greater for children than for adults. The committee were shown several European studies, particularly surveys from Scandinavia - where the cellphone was first developed - which show that the radiation emitted by cellphones have definite biological consequences. For example, a 2008 study by Swedish cancer specialist Lennart Hardell found that frequent cellphone users are twice as likely to develop a benign tumor on the auditory nerves of the ear most used with the handset, compared to the other ear. A separate study in Israel determined that heavy cellphone users had a 50% increased likelihood in developing a salivary gland tumour. In addition, a paper published this month by the Royal Society in London found that adolescents who start using cellphones before the age of 20 were five times more likely to develop brain cancer at the age of 29 than those who didn't use a cellphone. "It's only on the side of the head where you use the cellphone," Carpenter said.

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