Unclear and inconclusive study makes people panic unnecessarily about cell phones

How about this for a headline:

Puzzling, inconclusive study shows male rats placed in artificial environments and evenly dosed with cell-phone-like radiation across their whole bodies for nine hours a day over two years show slightly more rare heart tumors yet lived longer than those male and female rats NOT exposed to radiation

That is more accurate a description than the current hubbub coverage regarding a recently completed study done by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) regarding cell phone use. I hesitate to post the ACTUAL headlines that were used because they are misleading, potentially causing concern where, in real life, there is little reason to be concerned. But, because headlines need to be short and grab your attention, and that news orgs like to use fear to get hits, you’ll see much punchier headlines that DO mince words.

There was a study that showed a statistically significant rate of cancer in animals compared to a control group. Please read the following (at least one) if you are interested in the results of this study – I’ll wait. (Links will open in a separate window so you won’t have to reload this page.)

Let me point out a few very substantial reasons that even a non-scientist can notice that should avert any panic:

    1. Who gets dosed with cell phone radiation nine hours a day? Some, maybe, but not many people. The phone is often kept away from you. That automatically reduces your radiation dose. I certainly do not worry about cancer from cell phones when the device is in my purse or about 3-5 feet away from me all day. It’s a handy device. I don’t plan to get rid of it anytime soon.
    2. This is nonionizing radiation which does not produce enough energy to strip electrons from atoms and potentially cause cell damage. So what is the mechanism here? It’s not clear. I don’t put myself in a microwave, handle radioactive material, or subject myself to more than 2 X-rays a year. So, I’m good.
    3. Many other studies have shown no effective increase in brain tumors. This study showed a rare kind of HEART tumor increase of up to 6%. The brain tumor was only discovered in 2-3% of the male rats. Does this make any sense in terms of human behavior and increased risk? Not really.
      A malignant glioma, a kind of brain tumor, was found in 2% to 3% of groups of irradiated male rats. The hearts of 2% to 6% of male rats in the cellphone groups also developed a tumor in what’s known as a Schwann cell, which is part of the sheath around nerves. Neither tumor was found in rodents not exposed to the radiation. In female rats, there was little difference among the groups.” Source
    4. Does a 6% increase in risk scare you? It really should not, especially in light of the other circumstances – like the risk that smoking, obesity, auto accidents and other cancers are far more likely to kill you first.
      It’s possible the radiation was causing the damage or somehow inhibiting the repair process for routine damage, he told ScienceInsider. Those results weren’t contained in the report, however, and are in an article that hasn’t been published. analysis and writeup of the entire study, which isn’t scheduled to be finished until 2017.” Source
    5. There are so many possibly carcinogens in the world around us – air pollution, smoked meats, sunlight – do we close ourselves off from the world to protect against a very low risk? What kind of life is that?
    6. Is anyone going to give up cell phones? Maybe a few that aren’t assessing risk all that well. It pays to consider if fear of a tiny possibility that something could go wrong and one gets cancer is worth the effort to live a less than normal and fulfilling life.

Weigh your risks: walking outside is a risk, eating and breathing is a risk, driving is a big risk. Cell phones, not so much unless you use cell phones WHILE driving.

Life is a risk. Live rationally but enjoy. We currently live longer than ever. Thank science.

I'm Ok, dude, really.
I’m Ok, dude, really.

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news. Doubtfulnews.com SpookyGeology.com

4 thoughts on “Unclear and inconclusive study makes people panic unnecessarily about cell phones

  1. Excellent post, I’ve been telling my friends much the same thing, but most of them prefer the fun stuff from the headlines.

  2. I have, alas, been seeing this popping up in every tabloid I’ve seen since it came out, and even in more mainstream press, and generally with the expected ‘we’re all going to die’ scare headlines.

    The problem with all of these claims is that despite the claims cell phone use causes brain cancer and the alleged findings of studies like this, there has been no corresponding increase in the number of brain cancers of this type since the cell phone began to come into wide spread use about thirty years ago. One would think that if there was indeed a link, the number of such cancers would have gone up significantly. But they haven’t. If I’m reading the data correctly at National Cancer Institute correctly (http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/brain.html) the incidence of brain cancer seems to have had a slight peak around the mid 1980s, before cell phone use became wide spread, and has actually been trending downwards ever since, despite the fact cell phone usage has grown exponentially over that time.

  3. You should not mention microwaves and X-rays and radioactive materials in one breath. Microwaves are non-ionising and can not cause cancer. Microwaves can cause serious internal heating of tissues.

    1. Acknowledged. That should have had more explanation. Was trying to span the spectrum.

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