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Cancer threat from mobile phone use is real

By Kieran Ball - 01 Jun 2011 16:27:0 GMT
Cancer threat from mobile phone use is real

After years of debate and conflicting studies, the World Health Organisation has stated that there is a correlation between mobile phone usage and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, has placed radio frequency electromagnetic fields in the same risk bracket as DDT, coffee, chloroform and car exhaust fumes. Previously, the World Health Organisation had said that there was no solid evidence to suggest that there was a link between mobile phones and cancer.

The announcement comes on the back of research that shows an increased incidence of a type of brain cancer known as glioma among heavy mobile phone users. The IARC categorised mobile phone usage as 2B, which means less risk than alcohol, tobacco and tanning machines (category 1).

Dr Jonathan Samet who led the study, involving 31 scientists in 14 countries said: "The conclusion means that there could be some risk and, therefore, we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."

However, Ed Yong from the organisation, Cancer Research said: "The WHO's verdict means that there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer but it is too weak to draw conclusions from."

Mobile phone usage has exploded since the 80s with more than 5 billion in use today. However, it is still too early to demonstrate a link between mobile phone usage and cancer through an increased number of glioma cases presenting at hospitals and medical centres. Until then, it is unlikely that people who find mobile phones so vital to their lifestyle will give up the habit, particularly since mobile phones are used for many other functions besides making calls.

John Cooke, commenting on behalf of the British-based Mobile Operators Association said there was a possibility of a hazard: "Whether or not this represents a risk requires further scientific investigation. The industry would absolutely support further research."

The research could lead to the United Nations revisiting its guidelines on mobile phone usage. In the meantime, the World Health Organisation suggests users take protective action by limiting usage and using headsets.

Full report: here.