| Playing It Safe
Concerns that cell phones cause brain tumors have not stopped millions of people from enjoying tetherless links to friends, family, and business associates.
The all-too-familiar chirp of a cellular phone shatters the peace at the beach, breaks up conversations, and intrudes just about everywhere. But such encroachments on privacy may be the least of our concerns.
People have voiced concern about the dangers of radiofrequency (RF) energy from cell phones. After reviewing the results of multiple studies, though, scientists have not found definite evidence about the harm from cell phones.
One case-control study of 996 adults with a brain tumor found that using a cell phone on one side of the head was associated with an excess risk of having a brain tumor. Despite this, most case studies have found that long-term cellular phone use is not clearly associated with increased risk of a brain tumor.
A large case-control study coordinated by the World Health Organization that included 5,117 patients with brain tumors and matched control patients without brain tumors did not find a clear link between cell-phone use and risk of brian cancer. The authors warned that further research should be performed. They especially felt that more studies were needed, as the patients in this study used the mobile phones less than people do regularly today.
A few animal studies showed that low levels of RF accelerated cancer development in mice exposed to high doses. Others did not.
Playing It Safe
So are cell phones safe? The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the health risk small, and given the evidence they have available, has not linked cell phones with any health problems. If you are concerned about the risk of using a cell phone, the FDA recommends the following:
- Hold longer calls on a conventional phone, restricting cell phone use to shorter calls and situations where traditional phones are not available.
- Use speaker mode, a headset, or a hands-free kit to place more distance between your head and the cell phone.
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United States Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm212273.htm. Updated May 17, 2011. Accessed May 17, 2011.
Reducing exposure: hands-free kits and other accessories
steps to reduce exposure to radiofrequency energy.
United States Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/HomeBusinessandEntertainment/CellPhones/ucm116293.htm. Updated March 10, 2009. Accessed May 5, 2011.
Last reviewed May 2011 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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