WHO Report Indicates Cell Phones May Cause Cancer

The cell phone industry doesn’t need to panic in light of this new evidence and should in fact show genuine concern for their customers rather than their stockholders’ dividends.

The blogs abuzz with the latest findings by the World Health Organization (WHO) research that is indicating a possible association between cell phone use and the potential for developing brain cancer.  In a statement released by the WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), researchers found that though there is no absolute link between cell phone use and brain cancer the evidence does suggest that frequent use could be related to this disease.  Actually it’s not cell phones per se that conceivably may cause this health issue but the exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields that cell phones create that poses a health risk.  Standing too close to your microwave oven when its running poses the same risk.

According to Dr. Jonathan Samet, overall chairman of the internationally commissioned working group:

“the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough  to support a conclusion and the 2b classification.  The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”


Immediately the cell phone Industry sent out a press release that said essentially the same thing with emphasis on that part that posits there is no absolute direct link.

The cell phone industry maintains that there is no conclusive evidence that cell phone radiation impacts users’ health and often cites WHO stance on the topic.  CTIA-The Wireless Association added that WHO researchers “did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies.”  SOURCE 

But the tone of the messages between the WHO scientific report and the comments by free market capitalists is that one raises a cautionary note and the other says no real need to worry.  One has the public’s health interest at heart, the other shows concern about how this information will impact their bottom line.

The WHO report pointed out that holding your cell phone close to your ear creates the greatest risk of brain cell damage from microwave radiation.   According the National Cancer Institutes Fact Sheet on the subject:

A cell phone’s main source of RF energy is produced through its antenna. The antenna of newer hand-held cell phones is in the handset, which is typically held against the side of the head when the telephone is in use. The closer the antenna is to the head, the greater a person’s expected exposure to RF energy. The amount of RF energy absorbed by a person decreases significantly with increasing distance between the antenna and the user. The intensity of RF energy emitted by a cell phone depends on the level of the signal.  SOURCE

Neurosurgeon Keith Black explained to Jeff Brown on PBS Tuesday night  that though he uses cell phones he does so with a speaker phone or hands-free device to prevent the threat radiation that cell phones may pose.

Right now the weight of evidence is so slight that the general public should not be over alarmed.  The worst case scenario suggest that if you had your cell phone plastered to your skull most of your waking hours there might be a higher probability that sometime in your life you may develop brain cancer.  A critique of the WHO report should not be asking people to get rid of their cell phones or even to dramatically change their cell phone habits.

But the knee jerk response by the cell phone industry following the release of the recent WHO report is indicative of people who worry about any likelihood of negative impressions given the public by authoritative figures, fearing they’ll see their stock values plummet.  It also unmasks the image that marketers create in their ad campaigns that works to portray a company that is sensitive to customers needs.

Essentially what the recent report conveys is a suspicion based on certain findings but doesn’t state that if A occurs then B is sure to follow.  Along the same lines you could make an objective report on findings that suggest if you frequently walk along the edge of the road you are more likely to be a victim hit by a car as opposed to those who walk on sidewalks.  The conclusion one should draw here is that it may be safer walking on sidewalks than at the edge of the road, not that you will die if you choose to.

The approach the phone industry should have taken and that would remain consistent with their marketed image is to point out the weakness of the report, that they are working with scientist to make us all better informed and for the time being, use the speaker on your phone or a hands-free device more frequently until the studies prove conclusively that the non-ionizing (low-frequency) radiation from cell phones does or does not put users at risk to contract brain cancer.

The public is too connected to their cell phones to ban them outright and when business  convey a message that dignifies scientific research rather than belittles it, they stand in a better light with customers than they do when they react defensively and raise the specter that profit supersedes people.

The best thing the cell phone industry can do is let the dust settle from this scientific analysis and not spend money on ads that try to dismiss the cautionary warnings of extensive cell phone use.  They need to be viewed as a partner in the research that will either clear them of this speculation or show them areas they can improve that will offset any possible health hazard to their product users.

I fear however that by rationally supporting the cell phone industry I might be giving the impression that free market zealots have more of a heart and soul than they actually do.


Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer? 

4 responses to “WHO Report Indicates Cell Phones May Cause Cancer

  1. Great article. I read the reports and I didn’t find any need for serious alarm, but the evidence does seem to be mounting that heavy cellphone use can, indeed, cause cancer.

    I also don’t think any of the cell providers should be too worried about the findings. As you mentioned, we are way too attached to our cellphones to get rid of them or to stop buying them.

  2. Why I don’t doubt some kind of correlation, this has been the WHO’s mantra for years. Possible but nothing concrete yet. I agree though that cell phone companies should take more precautions in case the connection does turn out to be true.

  3. I guess that smoke signals caused lung cancer and grass fires. ….I sound like a right-winger dismissing a health threat! People will keep those phones glued to their ears come hell, high water, or tumors.

  4. Hi LB, just dropping by to say hi. Thanks for leaving me a comment, appreciate it. Anyway, regardless of the findings people are not going to give up cell phones no matter what…people already know the risks of smoking cigarettes but no one’s slowing down…Too much of ANYTHING will kill ya(:

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