Friday, January 23, 2009

Cell Phone Brain Cancer

I first got this video in an e-mail from a friend. I was shocked.

Pop Corn téléphone portable micro-ondes
Uploaded by sassiere

I had read little blurbs in the press about concern over microwave induced brain cancers from cell phone use, but they did not seem too alarming, and the consensus seemed to be “something to be followed but no clear danger at this time”. I decided to do some research into the literature. My favorite site, both for my own curiosity and for use in my work as a surgeon, is , which is a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Nearly every journal of any medical discipline is represented in this search engine and you can find any article there. I looked under “Cell Phone Brain Cancer” typed in the search line. There was one article from Sweden that raised some concern. The rest were pretty unconvinced that there is a relationship. Several raised the same, somewhat scary point, however. The best studies only go back about 10 years. And other cancer causing agents can take up to 40 years to be fully effective. Radiation, for example takes many years. I have treated two patients with lymphoma (a lymphatic cancer) who had their exposure in the military, occupying Hiroshima in 1945. Their cancers did not happen until the 90’s. We had a similar scare with saccharine artificial sweetener in the 60’s. Some said, “Just wait 40 years and see what happens”. Well nothing has happened in the case of saccharine, it’s use has proven safe.

It just seems common sense to me that constant exposure of our brains to the kind of power seen demonstrated in this video over 40 years will cause some kind of damage, whether it is cancer or hearing problems, brain damage, whatever. Some studies warned against lots of use over many years. I feel good that my exposure started in my 40’s and is moderate (about 2000 minutes/ month, according to my billing statements). I see these kids today with the phones practically permanently attached to the side of there heads and I worry. I have started using the “speaker” option in the car, where I use mine the most. I don’t know the first thing about Blue Tooth technology. It is some sort of device that goes in your ear and talks to your phone, moving the phone away from your head and allowing you to be “hands free” (probably hugely safer by a factor of 1000 than any possible cancer danger). But that device must use some microwave to talk to the phone and is that safer? I don’t know.

The cell phone has radically improved my life and the lives of everyone who uses one. But there must be some risk over time and we all need to think of ways to reduce those risks.

Uncle Hans