Talking to the public about cell phones, safety, and cancer risks


12 Responses to “Talking to the public about cell phones, safety, and cancer risks”

  1. Happler says:

    Don’t forget that coffee and pickles are also on that same level as cell phones….

  2. emmdeeaych says:

    Some people can eat glass. For most people eating glass is fatal. I don’t want warnings on every window pane, but I also don’t want to see glass-laden treats for sale, nor do I want to be served one unknowingly. Fortunately we have the FDA, and they determined glass is an illegal food additive by making lists like the WHO did.

    Cell phone use just made the bottom rung of such a list, which says it is a possible risk. It is, possibly, a risk. It is, definitely, worth further official investigations. That’s all the study says. It goes on a list with DDT and eating apples as things worthy of further investigation as a vector in carcinogenicity.

    Cigarette smoking causes cancer sometimes. As does asbestos., But when you combine exposures to the two, there is a synergistic effect, and the rate of cancer skyrockets.

    So, if you’re scared you have three choices – educate yourself use your phone and wait it out, stay afraid and use your phone and wait it out, or stop using your phone and wait it out.

    You’ll need to know your own threshold of response to this EM radiation to make the responsible decision, but right now the WHO is uncomfortable saying that there is no threshold of response to this EM radiation. So there might be. It’s not definitely dangerous, but it appears as a plausible enough vector to identify specifically.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help thinking that the people who can’t tell the difference between “cell phones might cause cancer” and “ZOMG CELL PHONES GIVE YOU TEH CANCER” are the same people who think Darwinian evolution is “just a theory,” and wondering if we can’t use that to our advantage. Like, next time some people want to remove evolution from biology text books, we distract them with a press release about how we haven’t conclusively proven that microwave ovens can’t cause fertility issues.

  4. CLAVDIVS says:

    Still no mention of the fact that the frequencies in use are physically incapable of causing cancer because they lack the energy per photon to break molecular bonds or ionize atoms, I see…

    • Anonymous says:

      They send the brain cells into premature cellular epochtosis which usually happens every 7 years and the gammagobling eat/assimilate then and the new cells grow. If it is premature the gammagoblins are not on cue and the dying cells get assimulated by the free radicals that abound everywhere and that is how the new cell gets set up for mutation.
      I’d rather say it poetically as in
      your talking guns are zapping me.

  5. Teller says:

    The ‘hold on now’ reactions make me wonder if an addiction to cell phones will be greater or less than the addiction to cigarettes?

  6. upperleftcorner says:

    @CLAVDIS – I don’t think anybody ever claimed that cell phone radiation directly dismantled molecular bonds and it certainly isn’t ionizing.

    Epidemiology is different from physics. Epidemiological studies identify correlations that may be related to causation. They don’t have to address the mechanics or the physics going on in order to provide useful data. Just as an example, I don’t think you have to actually know how tobacco causes cancer in order to tag it as a causative agent. There are so many epidemiological correlations between tobacco and cancer that there is little doubt as to its role whether the mechanics are understood or not.

    In the case of the cell phone radiation the evidence is just beginning to accumulate. It may or may not turn out to be serious but I don’t think we can dismiss it on the presumption that we actually know how it all works.

  7. Joseph Hertzlinger says:

    It’s a well-known fact that green jelly beans are a possible acne risk.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @upperleftcorner: you are probably correct that nobody specifically claimed that cell phones emit ionizing radiation. However, the whole reason that anyone ever started worrying about cell phones causing cancer was because someone thought “hey, radiation causes cancer, and cell phones emit radiation, so cell phones must cause cancer.” It wasn’t a concern that was generated from inside the scientific community itself, or from someone who understood anything about interactions of electromagnetic radiation with matter, or mechanisms of tumorigenesis. This factual error of understanding in ionizing vs. nonionizing radiation implicitly underlies most of people’s fears of cell phone use today.

    As far as epidemiology vs. physics, first, I think you’re mischaracterizing the state of epidemiological evidence. In the 30 or so years since cell phones came into heavy use, there has been no measurable increase in overall population rates of head and neck tumors. That fact alone should be pretty reassuring. However, there have also been large epidemiological studies of cell phones vs. cancer, and while epidemiological data can never rule out a tiny risk, they do show that the overall risk, if it exists, is extremely small. Much smaller than the known risk from eating smoked fish or barbecued meat, for example, which are things that people do routinely.

  9. Anonymous says:

    They kill bees. That’s enough for me. Like cigarettes, everyone was oblivious in a cloud of ignorance until the results were finally in. Cellular roulette, wanna play?

    • Anonymous says:

      *they kill bees* – Except they don’t?

      @ CLAVDIVS – I don’t actually think cell phones are associated with brain tumors, but I’m also not convinced that effects have to be direct. Frequencies in use can’t screw up your DNA directly by breaking molecular bonds/ionizing atoms, but indirect causation could plausibly be explained by metabolic effects or effects on a body’s microflora, epigenetics… I’m handwaving a bit because I’m not an oncologist, but the point is, something doesn’t have to directly break DNA to be associated with an increased risk of cancer. It’s reassuring that cell phone frequencies *don’t* break your DNA, but I think the epidemiological studies are also necessary to confirm/document safety. (Although I fully accept that there are some folks who are never going to accept evidence of safety on this or any other topic. Or accept science, for that matter.)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Louis Slesin Editor of
    has been all over this story, for all you context lovers like me.

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