Washington — The domestic policy subcommittee of a U.S. House of Representatives committee is holding a hearing today on the health effects of wireless phones, but earlier this week, the government’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) issued a statement contending that — for now — concerns over cellular’s health effects “are not supported by a growing body of research on the subject.”
“More than a dozen studies have explored the relationship between the use of cellphones and malignant or benign brain tumors. The majority of these have found little or no overall increased risk of brain tumors within the first 10 years of use. Studies now in the pipeline will yield information on longer term use, as well as the first results involving children,” said NCI, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Children and adolescents, NCI pointed out in a fact sheet, “are likely to accumulate many years of exposure during their lives. In addition, children may be at greater risk because their nervous systems are still developing at the time of exposure.”
For now, however, "the biological mechanism by which radiofrequency radiation might cause cancers is unknown and entirely a matter of speculation," said Dr. Peter Inskip of NCI's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics.
“A major unanswered question is how cellphones might contribute to cancer,” NCI continued. “Phones emit radiofrequency energy, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation. While exposure to high levels of radio frequency energy can heat body tissues, the amount of radiofrequency energy produced by cellphones is too low to cause significant heating of tissue.”
Given this dramatic growth of cellphone usage in the United States, NCI continued, “researchers have looked for increases in the incidence of brain cancer in the U.S. population and found none,” nor were there increases in the incidence of other nervous system cancers between 1987 and 2005, NCI said in citing its Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program.
Researchers have also looked to studies of people exposed to increased levels of RF energy at work, including a study of employees in a cellphone factory and another of Korean War Navy radar technicians. Neither study found evidence of increased cancer risk, NCI said.
Nonetheless, because cellphone technology is relatively young and has changed, “larger studies are needed to answer questions about longer-term use,” NCI admitted. A series of multinational studies have been completed, and although the combined analysis is not yet complete, some of the 13 participating countries that pooled their data have “reported little or no effect on the risk of brain tumors,” NCI said.
“Of all the potential health risks associated with cellphones that have been examined so far,” Inskip contended, “the most convincing evidence concerns the risk of motor vehicle accidents among people distracted by using their cellphone while driving.”