By Dr. Mercola
A new report published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) claims to have found no association between long-term use of cell phones and brain or central nervous system tumors.
But like the Interphone study, which also initially reported no link between cell phones and brain cancer, this finding is seriously flawed and only adding to the false shroud of safety that the telecom industry is seeking to create.
As Devra Davis, PhD, cancer epidemiologist and president of the Environmental Health Trust, stated, the BMJ study results are "unsurprising, biased and misleading," and:
"From the way it was set up originally, this deeply flawed study was designed to fail to find an increased risk of brain tumors tied with cellphone use."
BMJ Study Excluded Heaviest Cell Phone Users from the Analysis
The BMJ study, "Use of mobile phones and risk of brain tumours: update of Danish cohort study," is a follow-up to an earlier Danish analysis of 358,403 mostly male cell phone subscribers over the age of 30 during the period 1990-2007.
Unfortunately, the study simply extends the flaws found in the original study (which incidentally also found no cancer risk) by not only taking into account the fact that cell phone use and wireless exposure has changed dramatically even in the last few years, but also not including those most at risk of cell phone damage in the report: heavy business users.
"In order for any study of a relatively rare disease like brain tumors to find a change in risk, millions must be followed for decades. By extending an earlier analysis on the same group of cellphone users this new report provides unsurprising, biased and misleading conclusions.
It uses no direct information on cell phone use, fails to consider recent and rapidly changing nature of and exposure to microwave radiation from cellphones, cordless phones and other growing sources, and excludes those who would have been the heaviest users—namely more than 300,000 business people in the 1990s who are known to have used phones four times as much as those in this study."
Conveniently, more than 300,000 business users were removed from the study, which represented nearly 30 percent of the original group. By excluding those who would have been the heaviest users, it is impossible to take the study results at face value, especially considering that a cell phone "user," as defined by the study, was anyone who made one call a week for 6 months.
Adding to this the fact that cell phone calls were more expensive to make several years ago, which means many likely kept their calls shorter than nowadays, when unlimited minutes are the norm, means that the group's average exposure was far less than what we're seeing today, and unlikely to provoke a noticeably increased risk during the study period.
There were other problems uncovered as well …
Seriously Understated Cell Phone Risks Skewed Study Findings
In order for a study to hold any scientific weight, it must compare its test group against a group of controls. In this case, the study compared cell phone subscribers to "non-subscribers," who therefore should have been unaffected by cell phone radiation in order to provide an accurate base-line against which the risks of cell phone use could be measured.
However, as a critique of the study released by ElectromagneticHealth.org reported, the non-subscribers became cell phone users later on -- a change that was not accounted for in the study.
" … the report analyzed the rates of brain tumors that occurred between 1990-2007 in those who began using cellphones after 1987, compared to those who were non-subscribers when the study started. This … understates risk, because most of those who began as 'non-subscribers' to cell phone service (i.e. the 'controls' at the time the cohort was collected) became cell phone users later on, and accumulated almost as many years (on average per person) as the 'exposed' subscribers.
Hence, the comparison to the population not contained in the subscriber sample is a comparison between two exposed groups.
Cell phone users who began using cell phones after 1995 and those under the age of 30 were not considered 'subscribers' in the study (as with the business users and pay-as-you go users), thus significantly diluting the results and underestimating the risk."
When this flaw was mathematically corrected by Michael Kundi and colleagues from the Medical University of Vienna in the earlier Danish study, they actually found a significantly increased risk for brain tumors! Davis also points out that the current study also found increased risks that are not being recognized by the researchers or reported by the media as such.
"Statistical significance tests are tools used in science to help understand the chance that a finding is real. In fact, the article reports a significant increased risk of a very rare form of glioma of the cerebral ventricle based on eight cases but the authors chose to make no mention of this significant finding. In this instance despite the small number the finding is significant.
Statistical analyses provide tools, but do not provide rules, for interpreting evidence. This means that findings can be important even when they do not reach significance statistically.
In this report, the authors reject all other findings of borderline significance completely. In a study of relatively rare diseases such as brain tumor, the failure to obtain statistical significance should not be confused with a lack of public health importance. In fact, most of the reported numbers of brain tumors in this article give estimated risks where the result goes from below 1 (a negative result meaning no increased risk), to above 1 (a positive result indicating in some instances a doubled or greater risk).
All of the few well-designed case-control studies of this issue have found significantly increased risk. Thus, these borderline findings of increased risk may well signal an important association."
Cell Phone Safety Spin is Ongoing
You simply cannot take the word of the CTIA (the wireless industry trade group) for granted when it states that "no research has found cell phones to be a danger to health." They misinterpret and misrepresent certain studies while ignoring a large portion of the published research showing harm!
Stating that cell phones "are not a danger to health" is an utter farce—which some would call a fraud—being perpetrated on the American people, and all other citizens of the world.
According to Camilla Rees of ElectromagneticHealth.org,
"It highlights the lack of integrity in governments, which more and more are turning a blind eye to public health while supporting commercial interests."
I wrote about the serious flaws of the Interphone study when it was first released. The massive Interphone study, which was meant to finally provide definitive evidence on the safety, or lack thereof, of cell phones cost more than $30 million (funded in part by the mobile phone industry) to carry out, and involved at least 50 scientists from 13 countries. But the International EMF Collaborative found that the study seriously underestimates the brain cancer risk from cell phone use.
Some of the key design flaws of the Interphone study mirror those in the current BMJ study, such as leaving out key groups of study participants and using exposed subjects as a "control" group. For example, flaws of the Interphone study include:
- Results were only provided for brain cancers (gliomas) and meningiomas, but not tumors within the 20 percent of the brain's volume irradiated by cell phones
- The 5-year-old results are woefully inadequate as a gauge of risk today, as adults and children now speak on cell phones many hours a day compared to only 2 to 2.5 hours a month at the time the study was conducted
- Categorizing subjects who used portable phones (which emit the same microwave radiation as cell phones) as 'unexposed', thus comparing subjects who were actually 'exposed' with others who were 'exposed' as a means to gauge risk
- Excluding people who had died, or were too ill to be interviewed, as a consequence of their brain tumor
- Excluding children and young adults, who are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation and who now use cell phones heavily
The Cell Phone Cancer Risk is Real
The Interphone Study Group did eventually acknowledge that "heavy users" of cell phones—which is MOST people today, including children and teens—had an approximately doubled risk of glioma, a life threatening and often-fatal brain tumor, after 10 years of cell phone use. This should be a wake-up call for all except those in deepest denial.
And here's the most shocking piece of evidence of this risk: their definition of a "heavy user" was someone using a cell phone for about two hours per month! So how could any rational objective scientist claim that this study proved cell phones safe, when you double your risk of a fatal brain tumor after using your cell phone for just two hours a month for 10 years?
For more information about the Interphone study, I recommend reading the report, "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone." After closely reviewing the facts and the flaws of the Interphone study, the report concluded:
- There is a risk of brain tumors from cell phone use
- Telecom-funded studies underestimate the risk of brain tumors
- Children have larger risks than adults for brain tumors
On May 21, 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a committee of 27 scientists from 14 different countries working on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), also concluded that exposure to cell phone radiation is a "possible carcinogen" and classified it into the 2B category. This is the same category as the pesticide DDT, lead, gasoline engine exhaust, burning coal and dry cleaning chemicals, just to name a few.
The group did not perform any new research; rather the decision is based on a review of the previously published evidence, including the Interphone study results published so far (about 50% have still not been released). This is the same evidence that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), among others, have previously waved aside, calling it "reassuring," and claiming it showed "no evidence" of harm.
Camilla Rees, MBA, founder of ElectromagneticHealth.org, actually believes that the new BMJ study was released specifically to counter the IARC cancer classification, and also points out similarities between the BMJ study spin and a previously released, and also heavily misleading, study that claimed children have no brain tumor risk from cell phones – which incidentally was conducted by some of the same researchers as the BMJ study.
"This churning of the handicapped Danish cohort study is likely intended to counter the recent WHO IARC classification of cell phone radiation as a Class 2B 'Possible Carcinogen.' The misrepresentation to the media evidenced here parallels the recent misleading CEFALO brain tumor study that purported to show that there is no higher risk of brain cancer in children.
In fact, that study did find increased risk of brain tumors in children that the authors dismissed. But, experts in pediatric oncology understand that brain tumors in children could well occur in shorter time periods than in adults. The overlap in investigators in these two studies should also be noted."
So please understand that cell phone radiation has the potential to harm your health, just like DDT or lead, which is what experts in the field have been saying for years. That doesn't mean that every person exposed to those substances will get cancer.
But it raises your overall risk, depending on a number of other factors, such as your general state of health, which in part is dependent on exposure to other toxins through food, air, and water, just to name a few.
And I believe it's important to remember that when we're talking about toxins in general, it's your accumulated toxic load that matters most. So in that sense, heavy users of cell phones and other wireless gadgets, as well as children, are at exponentially increased risk, and should at the very least be warned so that they can make educated decisions about their self-imposed level of exposure.
Reducing Your Risk of Health Damage from Cell Phone Use
While the IARC panel, being a science not policy organization, did not make many specific recommendations to consumers, IARC Director Christopher Wild did take it upon himself to publicly state:
"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting."
These are sensible solutions, but keep in mind that completely eliminating exposure is close to impossible. Even if you don't use a cell phone and your home is wireless-free, you can be exposed to microwave radiation from your neighbor's wireless devices or while visiting "hot spots" or traveling near cell phone towers. That said, there's still plenty you can do to minimize your exposure and help safeguard your children's health:
- Children Should Never Use Cell Phones: Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults, because of their thinner skull bones, and still developing immune and neurological systems.
- Reduce Your Cell Phone Use: Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call.
Leave an outgoing message on your phone stating your cell phone policy so others know not to call you on it except in emergencies.
- Use a Land Line at Home and at Work: Although more and more people are switching to using cell phones as their exclusive phone contact, it is a dangerous trend and you can choose to opt out of the madness.
- Reduce or Eliminate Your Use of Other Wireless Devices: You would be wise to cut down your use of these devices. Just as with cell phones, it is important to ask yourself whether or not you really need to use them every single time.
If you must use a portable home phone, use the older kind that operates at 900 MHz. They are no safer during calls, but at least some of them do not broadcast constantly even when no call is being made. Note the only way to truly be sure if there is an exposure from your cordless phone is to measure with an electrosmog meter, and it must be one that goes up to the frequency of your portable phone (so old meters won't help much). As many portable phones are 5.8 Gigahertz, we recommend you look for RF meters that go up to 8 Gigahertz, the highest range now available in a meter suitable for consumers.
Alternatively you can be very careful with the base station placement as that causes the bulk of the problem since it transmits signals 24/7, even when you aren't talking. So if you can keep the base station at least three rooms away from where you spend most of your time, and especially your bedroom, it may not be as damaging to your health.
Ideally it would be helpful to turn off or disconnect your base station every night before you go to bed. Levels of microwave radiation from portable phones can be extraordinarily high, according to Camilla Rees.
"Portable phone radiation can be as high or higher than a wireless router, though most people would have no idea that this common device at their bedside could be harmful."You can find RF meters at www.emfsafetystore.com. But you can pretty much be sure your portable phone is a problem if the technology is labeled DECT, or digitally enhanced cordless technology.
- Limit Your Cell Phone Use to Where Reception is Good: The weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit, and the more power it uses, the more radiation it emits, and the deeper the dangerous radio waves penetrate into your body. Ideally, you should only use your phone with full bars and good reception.
Also seek to avoid carrying your phone on your body as that merely maximizes any potential exposure. Ideally put it in your purse or carrying bag. Placing a cell phone in a shirt pocket over the heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man's pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility.
- Don't Assume One Cell Phone is Safer than Another. There's no such thing as a "safe" cell phone, and do not rely on the SAR value to evaluate the safety of your phone. Always seek CDMA carriers over GSM as they have far lower radiation in their signaling technology. And remember, eliminating cell phone use, or greatly lowering cell phone use from phones of all kinds, is where true prevention begins.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Away From Your Body When it is On: The most dangerous place to be, in terms of radiation exposure, is within about six inches of the emitting antenna. You do not want any part of your body within that area.
- Respect Others Who are More Sensitive: Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others' cell phones in the same room, even when it is on but not being used. If you are in a meeting, on public transportation, in a courtroom or other public places, such as a doctor's office, keep your cell phone turned off out of consideration for the 'second hand radiation' effects. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.
- Use Safer Headset Technology: Wired headsets will certainly allow you to keep the cell phone farther away from your body. However, if a wired headset is not well-shielded the wire itself acts as an antenna attracting ambient information carrying radio waves and transmitting radiation directly to your brain. Make sure that the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded.
The best kind of headset to use is a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the information to your head as an actual sound wave; although there are wires that still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.
To learn more about this extremely important issue, please see my dedicated EMF site. I also highly recommend setting aside an hour to listen to ElectromagneticHealth.org founder Camilla Rees' interview with Karl Maret, MD. With an extensive background in medicine, electrical engineering, and biomedical engineering, Dr. Maret is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic of electromagnetic fields, and he shares some of the most compelling arguments to date on why you must use extreme caution when it comes to not only cell phones but also cordless phones, smart meters and other forms of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
You can also listen to an important 20-minute speech by Martin Blank, PhD, who spoke at the November 18, 2010 Commonwealth Club of California program, "The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields," co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org. Dr. Blank speaks with deep experience and commanding authority on the impact on cells and DNA from electromagnetic fields, and explains why your DNA is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic fields of all kinds.