Another Study Links Cell Phones To Brain Tumors. Should You Be Worried?
Everyone’s worst nightmare: A study from Sweden has linked cell or cordless phone use to an increased risk for glioma—the most common type of malignant brain tumor.
The study team examined the phone habits of several thousand people diagnosed with brain tumors, and then compared them to an equivalent number of tumor-free “control” individuals. Just one year of mobile or cordless phone use upped a person’s risk for glioma 30% to 40%, concludes the study in Pathophysiology.
Also, the longer you’ve used wireless phones and the younger you were when you first started using them, the greater your risk. How much greater? If you’ve chatted on wireless phones for more than 25 years—including cordless land-line or “house” phones—your risk for a tumor triples, the study data suggest. Yikes.
Cancerous tumors were most likely to show up on the same side of the head where people tended to hold their phones, and was most common in the temporal lobe of the brain—the part behind your temple and ear.
“You should worry, and you should avoid further exposure,” says one of the study’s authors, Lennart Hardell, a member of the department of oncology at University Hospital, Örebro.
Hardell and his coauthor on the study point to the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) wireless phones emit as the likeliest villain when it comes to tumor dangers. Those electromagnetic fields may disrupt some of your brain cell’s DNA-repairing abilities, or could cause some gene mutations, the authors speculate. Hardell also says children are at greater risk because their skulls are thinner, which leads to increased exposure to the RF-EMF.
Before you completely freak out, take heart in the fact that some experts aren’t certain there’s reason to worry. L. Dade Lunsford, a neurosurgeon and distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has reviewed the Swedish team’s findings and isn’t convinced by their data.
Lunsford points out that the people in the study self-reported their phone habits—meaning the study teams’ conclusions aren’t based on actual cell phone data. He says its possible tumor sufferers, anxious to pinpoint the cause of their disease, may be unreliable.
Also, Lunsford says the tumor/RF-EMF explanations don’t add up. The science gets complicated in a hurry, but in simple terms, Lunsford says other cancers would pop up sooner and in greater numbers than glioma tumors if electromagnetic fields were wreaking the type of havoc the Swedish study authors describe.
This latest study aside, some of the world’s largest organizations have looked into the possibility of a connection between wireless phones and cancer. In most cases, their findings have been “inconclusive”—the scientific equivalent of “we’re not sure yet.” One recent study from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research onCancer classified RF-EMF exposure as a “possible” carcinogen.
So what does all this mean for you? While cancer experts keep digging, you might as well play it safe. Hardell recommends keeping your phone away from your head during calls. That means using the speakerphone function, wired hands-free devices (as in, headphones but not Bluetooth), or anything else that allows you to keep your phone away from your body during calls. He also recommends making like a millenial—as in, texting whenever possible.