September 14th, 2009
06:49 PM ET
12 years ago

Cell phone-cancer link inconclusive, but experts advise caution

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The science is still out, but evidence so far indicates people should limit how much we use a cell phone, BlackBerry or iPhone due to a possible cancer risk, a Senate subcommittee heard Monday.

While no solid connection between mobile communications devices and human cancer has been established, studies indicating the likelihood of such a link call for a precautionary approach, medical experts testified at the hearing chaired by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Recommendations included using such devices less, keeping them away from the body, and limiting their use by children.

"Children have a configuration of their skull that does allow penetration of cell-phone radiation," noted Dr. John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health.

However, Bucher stopped short of declaring a causal link between cell-phone use and human cancer.

Other witnesses before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee noted the relatively short history of widespread cell-phone use, dating back only two decades.

Early studies are inconclusive, said Dr. Siegal Sadetzki of Tel Aviv University, but those done on subjects after 10 years of cell-phone use were showing higher incidences of tumors and other problems.

She cited a correlation between the amount of use, the side of the head where the device was held for talking, and incidences of tumors in salivary glands in that area.

"Until definite answers are available, some public health measures - especially for children - should be instituted," Sadetzki said. "It's not whether we should use cell phones, but how we should use them."

None of the participants in the hearing - including Harkin - said they were giving up their cell phones, but all agreed that restricting use and keeping the units away from the body were good ideas.

Dr. Devra Davis - a founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute - criticized U.S. regulators and researchers for a lack of attention to the issue. She called for updated standards based on new research, and increased funding for more extensive research.

"I am not alarmed - I am concerned, because the world has changed very rapidly and we have a right to know," Davis said.

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Surly Scholar

    Couldn't this be resolved with a simple measurement of the average frequency of radiation emitted by cell phones, cross-referenced with our existing knowledge base regarding the effects of varying EM wavelengths on human tissues?

    Is it that these studies already exist and are simply heavily referenced in the larger publications, or are these people just really incompetent scientists?

    September 14, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  2. Moderate Democrat

    I'm slow today, how is this political? Perhaps in the tech section, or am I missing something? Because Obama has a blackberry this is political?

    September 14, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. B

    This issue was looked at by a University of Washington scientist several years ago, and he got nowhere trying to tell people about this...

    People apparently don’t want to hear about it.

    September 14, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. Jane/Seattle

    Everything else causes Cancer that the corporations drop in our food, land, air and water. Compared to all of this, it would seem that cell phone risks are minor.

    September 14, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Were there any strong numbers given? How long was the study? How many people were involved? These are some of the questions that should been answered in this post. Were the cancers only in the brain or in other parts of the body?

    September 14, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  6. J.C.

    We tend to use a particular ear for phones. If the tumor is on the side you use for phones, then there may be a connection. But it may not be as simple as it seems. We need more data on you.

    Anyway, use it only as needed. Chatting on a cell phone is not a good habit. In Europe, children are encouraged not to use cell phones. In the US, most people seem invincible. Only if I could get these people on the phone off the road...

    September 14, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  7. Ryan, Council Bluffs

    I love our government hearings, and soon they will pass a law based on this testimony. I can just hear Sen. Harkin say, "We have conclusively heard that it is inconclusive that cell phones are linked to cancer, but since there is a chance and since 100% of the people who died from cancer owned, used, or saw a cell phone at least once...we will REGULATE THEM"

    September 14, 2009 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |