Should we still be concerned about cell phones and brain cancer?
There hasn’t been a lot of headlines around cell phones and brain cancer these days. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has overtaken many hot healthcare topics, there will likely be more in this case, experts said.
Perhaps people have simply lost interest and are unlikely to give up their phones even if there is a link between radiofrequency radiation (RFR) and cancer. Or perhaps restrictions on research have stifled conversations.
Another possibility is that while animal studies have been a concern for some experts in the field, others believe that studies in humans have completely removed their concerns. Still others explain that out of the many cancer risks, cell phone use is not one of them.
However, there are still areas of research that could be ripe for future results, such as cell phone use in children, and the transition to 5G. Also, public health lessons from cell phones and brain cancer may be useful outside of the research itself.
To help determine if people still need to worry about cell phones and their cancer risk, MedPage today He met with several experts familiar with the research and potential considerations going forward.
“It’s become more of a quiet zone,” said Emanuela Taioli, M.D., M.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “It’s been intense and controversial for five to 10 years.”
She added that one reason for this decline is that a number of large studies that have been conducted have shown no real association between mobile phone use and brain cancer.
It is worth noting that the Interphone Study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer was conducted in 13 countries and in 2011 Didn’t find an increased risk For brain cancer from cell phone use.
Other large-scale studies included a nationwide cohort study in Denmark that found that cell phones It does not cause brain cancerin addition to the study of one million women in the United Kingdom, which also concluded that cell phone use under usual conditions It does not increase the incidence of brain tumors.
When these studies were launched, there was interest in doing large-scale research that would cost millions of dollars, because, even if the risk was small, “because we are all vulnerable, the public health importance would be really high,” Tayoli said.
She noted that in those early days, there was a lot of anxiety. Phones will produce heat, which is a possible sign that radiation has entered the body.
She said scientists are concerned about the overall effect that might occur next. However, years later came the results of a number of studies, as well as the fact that Brain tumors in adults are decreasing, It may have contributed to waning interest.
It is noteworthy that research involving cell phone use is inherently difficult to conduct.
Much of it relies on self-reporting, Tayoli explained. It also includes trying to directly measure cell phone use while facing the head, she said. Other questions include whether the cell phone is directed at another member, how many hours a day the phone is directly facing the head, and how long the phone has been used in this way.
Although Timothy Rebek, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, agreed with some of the limitations of large human studies, he said he believes experts in the field see the issue settled. so far.
He noted, “My point is that when you get to a certain level of human data…the risk that might result from using a mobile phone is very small.”
He acknowledged that there are experts who favor animal studies because they argue that epidemiological studies in humans have limitations that may prevent researchers from seeing certain results.
Lika Khevits, PhD, in the UCLA School of Public Health, noted that while epidemiological studies don’t really indicate a risk, there have been animal studies that have been “a bit worrisome.”
National Toxicology Program She mentioned that her studies found High exposure to RFR was associated with clear evidence of tumors in the hearts of male rats, as well as some evidence of tumors in the brains and adrenal glands of male rats.
To better understand the biological basis of cancer outcomes reported in the National Toxicology Program’s cell phone radiofrequency radiation studies, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIEHS) [National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences] He built small radiofrequency exposure rooms (RFR) that have the ability to use a wider range of frequencies that will allow scientists to evaluate modern communication technologies. Studies are being conducted to test the performance and operations of smaller exposure rooms,” a spokesperson for the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety wrote in an email to MedPage today.
Regarding the timing, the spokesperson added, “some technical issues were identified in the exposure system, which delayed the start of the rat and mouse studies.” “Some experimental studies in the newly established systems have now been completed, and manuscripts are being developed to share the results. One of the first research papers to be developed will focus on the display system used in the studies.”
Kheifets also noted that it may be important to study the effects of moving to 5G, and how this could affect exposure to more towers and more information being transmitted.
Despite this, Rebek said, there are others who still believe that what we see in animal models does not reflect what we see in humans.
He noted that there are similar limitations in studying pesticides and exposure to chemicals – they can be difficult to measure in people. However, with cell phone studies, enough of them have been done well, “and we can be pretty sure nothing is missing,” he added.
“I think we can make a public health policy or decision that cell phones do not cause cancer based on the summary of the evidence,” Rebek said.
Moreover, messages on this topic are critical to help put everything in perspective, he continued. It’s important to consider things that are really important when it comes to cancer risk, like smoking.
He said there are things people can do – cancer screenings, prevention, vaccinations – that “make a really big difference”. “If you’re concerned about cancer, there are many other things you can do to lower your cancer risk that are real.”
Another area of study that has not been thoroughly examined, experts said, is cell phone use in children.
“They are generally more vulnerable,” Tayoli noted. “General diagnostic x-rays, we try to avoid them in children because the organs are developing.”
She said that children from a very young age are now exposed to cell phones. This in and of itself may be worth studying.
One thing all experts agree on is that much of the concern about cell phones and brain cancer has been completely erased. It sure isn’t often that any of them see people with phones pressed to their heads anymore.
Between headphones/earphones and texting, cell phone use disappeared as society knew it effectively disappeared.
Tayoli said the switch may be more important from a public health perspective than meets the eye.
“This is an example where people adopt healthier behavior without formal guidance or direction,” she noted. “But people just by reading and looking at each other have introduced a healthy way of using the phone. I can’t think of another example of this in the field.”
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