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Controversy Erupts Over New Cell Phone-Cancer Study (NewsFactor) A new study published by the American Academy of Neurology adds fuel to the debate over cell phone use and health risks by concluding there is no link between phone use and acoustic neuroma, or tumors of the inner ear. - Apr 23 1:21 PM ET

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 04/24/2002

Tue Apr 23, 1:20 PM ET

Jay Wrolstad,

A new study published by the American Academy of Neurology (news - web sites) adds fuel to the debate over cell phone use and health risks by concluding there is no link between phone use and acoustic neuroma, or tumors of the inner ear.

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The research was conducted by scientists at the New York University Medical Center and the New York Presbyterian Medical Center who performed a case-control study of 90 acoustic neuroma patients, with 86 control subjects. Subjects answered questions about hand-held cell phone use and lifestyle information.

Specific information was collected regarding the number of years of cellular phone use, minutes or hours used per month, year of first use, phone manufacturer and reported average monthly bill.

'Data Were Changed'

The findings were disputed by Dr. George Carlo, an authority on cell phone use and health hazards who recently launched the Mobile Telephone Health Concerns Registry (MTHCR). Dr. Carlo contends the data was manipulated to favor the wireless industry.

From 1993 to 2001, Carlo, a public health scientist and epidemiologist, ran the US$28 million cell phone surveillance and research effort funded by the wireless industry.

As director of the Wireless Technology Research (Nasdaq: TRCI - news) (WTR), an organization established by the industry to evaluate health risks, Carlo said he his familiar with two earlier studies conducted by Muscat that were sponsored by WTR, which has since been disbanded.

"There were significant increases in risk from cell phone use reported in those studies done for us, but the data were changed in the final report," Carlo said. "The industry was upset and they began directly courting Muscat. I am very suspicious that the interpretation of the data was changed before the reports were released."

No Assumed Risk

Study author Joshua Muscat, of the American Health Foundation in New York City, told Wireless NewsFactor that the research was not prompted by an assumed health risk from radiation exposure through cell phones.

"In this study, we did not find any association between acoustic neuroma and cell phone use," Muscat said. He included a caveat that the patterns of cell phone use evaluated may not be indicative of modern use, noting the study focused on infrequent users as opposed to individuals who use mobile phones throughout the day.

What's the Frequency?

A slightly greater risk of this type of cancer was found for subjects with three or more years of cell phone use, said Muscat, but these subjects were infrequent users.

No association was observed with cumulative use, and there was no evidence of a trend in the odds of risk with increasing levels of exposure.

"More research is needed to examine frequent cell phone use and longer-term exposure to the radiation emitted by cell phones," he said.

'Not Definitive'

Muscat explained that the skin and bones surrounding the ear, and the auditory nerve within the skull behind the ear, are exposed to radio frequency (RF) radiation emitted from cell phones.

"Our conclusions are not definitive, but they suggest that there is no risk of this type of tumor through cell phone use at this point," Muscat said.

Manipulation Charged

According to Carlo, the results published by Muscat do not reflect the data that were included in an earlier report on cell phone use and risks for ear cancer.

"My feeling is that there was a statistical manipulation to protect the wireless industry against health-related litigation," he told Wireless NewsFactor.

Carlo cited significant differences between results that were published by Muscat in this study and a similar study on brain cancer and cell phone use and the research for those studies indicating significant increases in health risks associated with cell phone use.

"From the public health point of view, the pattern of risk is there. They are making sweeping statements based on 90 cases, and I believe the industry is promoting this," Carlo said.

Debate Rages On

Muscat said these findings are consistent with other studies showing no conclusive links between cell phone use and cancer, but the jury is still out since few long-term evaluation of health risks have been conducted.

In fact, the National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has published a study revealing no definitive link between wireless phone use and cancer risk. Studies published in the Journal of American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites) in December 2000 also reports no connection between mobile phone use and cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) reports that while research on the issue conducted has produced conflicting results, none of the studies demonstrated any significant health effects from wireless phone RF exposures.

The agency conceded that none of the studies evaluate long-term exposures, since the average period of phone use in these studies is about three years.

Over There

Researchers in Europe, however, have released studies showing mobile phone radiation can be amplified by the shape of human cells and may cause changes body tissue that lead to cancer.

Some scientists suspect that low-frequency electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones may cause health problems ranging from memory loss to brain cancer.

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