Controversy Erupts Over New Cell Phone-Cancer Study
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, Wireless.NewsFactor.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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