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Swedish Study Finds Cell Phone Cancer Risk 282

dtjohnson writes "A new Swedish study has found that heavy users of cell phones had a 240 percent increase in brain tumors on the side of their head that the phone was used on. The study defined 'heavy' use as more than 2,000 total hours, or approximately one hour of use per workday for 10 years. An earlier British study was previously discussed here that didn't find an increased risk, although that study covered fewer subjects and only followed one type of brain tumor for a shorter period of time. Or course, the biggest epidemiological study of all is the one we are all participating in whenever we use our cell phone. The results from that study won't be available for a while."
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Swedish Study Finds Cell Phone Cancer Risk

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  • News? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eMartin ( 210973 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:42AM (#15044610)
    Um... Didn't we know this like 20 years ago?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:51AM (#15044627)
    Will I get eye cancer from using my computer so darn much?
  • by Techojoe ( 704378 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:59AM (#15044653)
    While it has been suspected for some time that cell phones may cause tumors there has been considerable debate over the subject. Telcos and phone makers taking the anti health risk stance for obvious reasons.The phone companies have put large sums of money into reaserch to tell them and us that the phones themselves are harmless. It looks now as if an independant? researcher has added to the body of evidence that there is in fact a real risk. To temper that however it appears you have to be a pretty heavy user to be at risk. Interestingly the mobil phone towers them selves seem to escape the scruting that the handsets have been subjected to.
  • Re:Assumptions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:25AM (#15044718) Homepage Journal
    Well, what is identified as the main reason behind tumours is the radiation that comes from the antenna of the cell phone.

    TFA doesn't say that except with reference to a British study.

    Using a hands-free set makes sure that the antenna is far away from your head.

    Some phones put so much RF into the hands free kit that radiation exposure is worse on hands free. It would be even worse if you leave the earpiece in between calls.

  • Re:suprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rbarreira ( 836272 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:30AM (#15044724) Homepage
    And how would you explain that the tumors were more likely to be located on the side of the head closest to where the user would put the phone?
  • Re:Um. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dhoonlee ( 758528 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:49AM (#15044757)
    this clearly identifies a weakness in the tagging system
  • Re:suprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @05:04AM (#15044788)
    people who work at TV and FM stations should be dropping like flies.

    Except that they don't go nea the antenna (or they would be cooked), and thee is such a thing as the invese squae law.

    Howeve, if the study coves 20 yeas, then it coves the time when cellphones put out a steady 4 watts. Now they can pehaps peak at that, but now they use adaptive power levels, the average power level while transmitting is generally below 100mW, and often below 4mW.However, the power from a domestic light bulb in that band is? and the SUn's radiation is massively greeater

    In simple terms,

    a)if it covers 20 years, its not relevant to today's phones.

    b)FM radio is not relevant at all

    c)If today's phones are a risk, then they are less of a risk than having incandescent light bulbs in your home, or being exposed to sunlight and that does not appear to kill anyone.

  • Re:News? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @05:28AM (#15044828)
    And what about the another one []?

    Maybe you ignore studies not confirming what you known since WWII. If you really know... what frequencies cause cancer? how much emitted power is needed? can you quantify the risk in percentage?

    This study is a piece of shit. A group of scientists trying to appear in TV, no more.
  • Re:Assumptions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by erkulikondrio ( 911578 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @05:36AM (#15044839) Homepage
    "The way to get the risk down is to use hands-free," he told Reuters.

    And if I use SMS ?
  • Re:It is new times (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:26AM (#15045650)
    You could be right, but I suspect not. If -- and I emphasize if -- there is a problem, it seems more likely to be caused by the relatively high powered radiation from the cell phone antenna, not the probably relatively low powered leakage from the cell phone circuits. As far as I know, newer phones don't put much, if any, less power into their antennas than older phones. If they did, their range would probably be shorter which cell phone companies and cell phone users would regard as undesirable. It's true that the wiring in the cell phone could be emiting radiation at different frequencies than the RF link to the cell phone tower. But few people really think that we know of any danger from any radiation that is likely to be coming out of a cell phone -- whether intentional or accidental -- that is likely to be dangerous to users. That's why this study is possibly important. If cell phones can cause any physiological change -- whether rare tumors or increased sexual potency -- it is important to understand how. Who knows, if cell phone radiation can really affect physiology, cell phone users might be cooking the neurons in their brains. That might be a problem as it seems to me that an awful lot of cell phone users don't have all that much cranial capacity to spare.
  • by Geste ( 527302 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @01:03PM (#15045997)
    "This article is poor (I would say unethical) coverage of a scientific study. [snip...] Also, with this studay, they found out people who had tumors, then asked them if they used cell phones. The subjects probably had no doubt as to why this question was being asked, therefore this was not really a double blind experiment."

    I will not argue that the CNet article represents this study very well, but if you are going to complain so casually about coverage of this study -- even calling it unethical -- it would help if some of your supporting arguments and complaints weren't so lousy.

    You seem to have no notion of the differences between a retrospective case-contol study (which is what the researchers conducted) and a prospective clinical trial (where you could reasonably employ double-blind methods).

    If you look past CNet and find the original article in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health you will see that the study included over 2000 control subjects.

    It is possible to design lousy studies of any type. There are also reasons to be cautious in interepreting the results of retrospective studies, but particularly in the case of low-incidence disease, they are often the only way to start looking at risk factors -- give policy makers at least something to start working with. So, until you come up with 3 billion dollars and an ethical design for a perfect double-blind cell phone study, I would encourage you to be a bit more forgiving.

    I will now retire to consider what a placebo cell phone would look like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @01:26PM (#15046079)
    Thanks very much for the link !

    I am a layperson for both statistical methods and medical sciences, but one thing about this study makes me a little bit sceptical.

    It is probably very difficult to make a meaningful, unbiased study about the cause of such an unlikely thing as cancer, that is the single most important and terryfying aspect in the life of the poor people that it attacks.

    This study must have been hard work, and a lot of data must have been collected.

    However, after quickly glancing over the study, as a layperson, i was missing a very simple plausibility check that immediately occurred to me :

    On page 6 of the PDF, table 3, there is a list of where cases of cancer were sorted into three groups :
    a) Ipsilateral: cancer occurs on same side of head where the phone was primarily used

    b) Contralateral: cancer occurs on other side of head where the phone was primarily used

    c) Ipsi/Contra: person used phone on both sides

    I am giving here the numbers of cases in the pdf for cases a) and b) only,
    for four different cancer Groups (X=M,H,L,O) and three different phone types (Y=(A)nalog,(D)igital,(C)ordless)

    XY a) b) a)/b)

    MA 95 54 1.76
    MD 195 119 1.64
    MC 172 116 1.48

    HA 62 37 1.68
    HD 127 69 1.84
    HC 113 63 1.79

    LA 10 4 2.50
    LD 27 16 1.69
    LC 26 18 1.44

    OA 23 13 1.77
    OD 41 34 1.21
    OC 33 35 0.94

    sum 924 578 1.60

    Over all the different cancer-types and phone types, if a person uses a phone mostly on one side, according to this study, the risk of getting cancer is 60% higher on the ear where the phone is mostly used.

    This is, IMHO, a *very* strong correlation.

    Furthermore, it should be very easy and reliable to detect on which side of the head a cancer occurs, particularly if it is in the ear and not anywhere in the brain, which is slightly asymmetrical and where cases near the middle of the brain may be unconsciously biased in their classification by the doctor.

    Now, I am going to pull a number out of my, err, hat ;-)

    Let us assume 80% of the swedish population are right handed.

    This number is made up, but there must be solid data on this.

    Let us further assume that 80% of phone users in a control group use their phone also on the right side of their head. This would require further tests, but should be comparatively easy to determine.
    Probably, this data is already taken for the control group of this study.

    If 80% "right-side-callers"(RC) vs 20% "left-side-callers" are correct, then we would expect expect a ratio of right-side-tumors/left_side_tumors of

      (RC*1.6+LC*1.0)/(RC*1.0+LC*1.6) = (1.28+0.2)/(0.8+0.32) = 1.32

    This is still highly significant, because we have a very large number of cases (924+578 = 1502).

    The advantage of this test is that it does not involve asking people who get a tumor on the right side and know this, whether they used their phone primarily on the right side. This effect cannot be blinded in the study.

    If the authors neglected to include in their paper the highly obvious and basically free test I outlined above, then this is a strong hint to me that this test did not give conclusive results.

    This leads me to believe that there were some methodical errors in the study, probably in the determination on which side the tumor patients used their phones.

  • Re:Read the Study (Score:3, Interesting)

    by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @01:52PM (#15046180) Journal
    wrong answer, 85 out of 905 CA patients were high users; that's 9.4 %, much less than the amount what you're ridiculing the study for being alarmist over.

    One thing I'd be curious about is because the study reported that people who use cell phone have a 240% greater chance of their tumor being located on the side of the brain that they hold their cells on, what percentage of right-handed people have malignant tumors on the left-side of their brains (left brian controls right body) and left-handers with maligincies in the right side of the brain.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @06:05PM (#15046989)
    > Finally, the results seem statistically sound.

    Indeed, they seem *too* statiscally sound (see my msg #15046079 for detailed analysis).

    I am not qualified or experienced in epidemiology to comment on the margin of error that could creep in if you ask cancer patients to quantify their exposure to an (to them) obvious possible cause of their disease, i.e. cellphone use).

    However, in this respect, the study was not properly blinded (better possibility, but *very* difficult: collect cellphone bills for patients and control group for last x years).

    As I mentioned in my other post, *one* of the results of the study can be relatively easily verified :

    Statement: Cancer affects mainly the side of the head where the phone is held (OR=1.6)

    Test: Any large medical center for cancer treatment checks its records for relative probability of Cancer in the right and left ear or brain hemisphere, exploiting the fact that most people hold the phone to the right side of the head (this still needs to be verified).

    If there are any doctors or nurses idly sitting on the night shift (o.k. they probably don't) with access to records, they can report the numbers for their department within an hour on slashdot tonight. (I'm not sure if they would be ethically allowed to do this, probably depending on the country they're in)

    If the occurrence for left and right side tumors is within +/- 5%, and the people had an average exposure to cellphone for industrialized countries, then I would considers this statement of the study debunked - unless swedish people are different in this respect.

    > The case for causality: First off there is biologic plausibility.

    Of course there are numerous possible causes that would not show a prefence for the side where the cancer occurs, e.g. the HF inducing some cells to produce cancerogenes that circulate freely in the blood and affect both sides equally, so other statements of the study are not affected by disproving the above statement.

    But it would cast a severe shadow of doubt on the rest of the study.

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