Does cell phone radiation increase cancer risks?

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Doctors across the country have raised concerns about some studies linking cellular radiation to brain cancer. According to Dr. Shane Speights, hundreds of studies examine radio frequency waves and their impact on brain cells. Currently, scientists are testing laboratory rodents by beaming small amounts of radiation from cell phones in timed intervals to determine if repeated bombardment can alter DNA in cells.

"Let's remember that cell phones emit radio frequency radiation. Now, that's a different wave. It's not like an X-ray or a CT scan or a gamma ray or anything like that. It's actually in a different spectrum," said Speights, Assistant Professor of Medicine at UAMS.

Speights, who reviewed 150 separate studies on cellular radiation, told Region 8 News the $4-trillion/year telecommunications industry funded one of the studies, which he said calls into question the investigation's validity.

"Most everyone agrees that we should find the answer, the problem is that when you start digging deeper into the studies, you want to look at who was involved in the study. Do these individuals have a high risk of cancer anyways? How long do they use their cell phones? Do they have a family history of brain cancer? Who funded the study," said Speights.

Speights said many studies didn't acquire enough data to give a concrete answer as to whether cell phones cause cancer or increase the risk.

"There is definitely reason for concern and investigation into this, especially when we're looking into our children," said Speights. "It's not known whether this microwave spectrum produces cancer or can actually cause cancer yet. That's why a lot of the studies are ongoing."

One of the largest studies Speights looked at was a combination of 16 independent studies by a multi-national group. He said it appears to be the largest such study on cell phone usage and brain cancer risks.

"There are actually two or three different camps, even within this own group, that have broken off because they can't agree on the information. One of those groups has actually published information in August of 2009 saying that this is a big cover up. These do cause cancer. There's a bigger risk to children. This is something to be concerned with," said Speights. "Even the largest study out there is being called into question. The data itself in the Interphone study has yet to be released. They are about 4 or 5 years behind in releasing that data, which again calls into question the validity of the information."

Speights said cancer forms when the genetic code in a cell is altered and grows.
"The best study would be to expose humans or animals to a certain amount of radiation over a period of time and see what percentage of those developed cancer. Those studies are ongoing right now," said Speights.

Speights also said cell phone radiation is very low.

Speights said studies also suggest children are most susceptible.

"If these kids are exposed, we may not know for 10 or 15 years whether they really have brain cancer or not," said Speights. "It would not surprise me to find out that exposure to cell phones greater than 10 years can increase the risk of brain cancer."

In the state of Maine, legislation is currently being debated that would force cell phone packaging to include warning labels.

"If I use my cell phone right now just once or twice this month or something like that, the likelihood of me getting cancer is extremely low. Now what is the risk of me using this cell phone several times a day over a period of 10 years or greater, that's the key question," said Speights.

In Denmark, scientists took 430,000 people from a cell phone registry and cross referenced them with people who were identified with brain cancer, which Speights said isn't an ideal study.

"The AM/FM band is actually below that and there is no risk known because AM/FM waves have been around for years," said Speights. "Ionizing radiation can cause heat and can cause chemical changes, such as changes in the genetic code. Non-ionizing radiation to date we do not think causes that."

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