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EMF Studies

29 September 2016

More on How Cellphones Are Linked to Brain Cancer

(Choice of image by Editor of "Towards Better Health")
More on how cellphones are linked to brain cancer
by Ronald Melnick, Opinion, jhnewsandguide.com,
28 September 2016

Contrary to what Bob Culver asserts in his commentary in the Jackson Hole News&Guide on Sept. 21 (“Phones haven’t been proven to cause cancer”), there is a substantial and growing body of independent scientific evidence indicating that non-ionizing microwave radiation from cellphones — RFR — can be damaging to human health.

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer carried out an extensive review of the world’s literature and classified RFR as a “possible human carcinogen” (published in volume 102 of the IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans: Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part II: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields, 2013). The section on cancer in humans lists more than 130 references.

As a senior scientist with the National Toxicology Program, I was one of 22 experts who participated in that IARC evaluation five years ago. At that time we classified cellphone radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on positive associations that had been observed between cellphone radiation and malignant brain tumors and tumors of Schwann cells that surround the auditory nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain (acoustic neuroma). A causal relationship was considered to be credible, and deemed by the IARC as “limited evidence of carcinogenicity.”

However, our working group did not conclude then that there was “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity” (i.e., causal relationship had been firmly established), because recall bias in the case-control studies could not be fully ruled out as a possible contributing factor. The IARC working group noted that brain cancer risks were increased significantly after 10 years of use, and risk levels were greatest on the side of the head on which users held their cellphones.

More recent evidence on health effects of cellphone radiation has strengthened the case for concluding that this radiation poses a cancer risk. The U.S. National Toxicology Program recently reported results from a study in which rats and mice were exposed to cellphone RFR for two years at exposure intensities in the range of cellphone emissions and that did not cause measurable increases in body temperature.

Carcinogenicity studies in rodents are important for several reasons: 1) Animals and humans exhibit similarities in biological processes of disease induction (that is why animal models are used in preclinical trials of new pharmaceutical agents); 2) It is unethical to intentionally expose humans to hazardous agents; 3) Every agent that is known to cause cancer in humans is carcinogenic in animals when adequately tested (IARC, preamble); and 4) Almost one-third of human carcinogens were identified after carcinogenic effects were found in well-conducted animal studies (Huff, 1993, Chemicals and cancer in humans: first evidence in experimental animals, Environmental Health Perspectives 100:201-210).

The findings of highly malignant and quite rare brain tumors and malignant Schwann cell tumors of the heart in the NTP study present a major public health concern because some of these same types of tumors had been reported in epidemiological studies of adult cellphone users. In addition the NTP reported DNA damage was induced in brain cells of exposed animals. While Mr. Culver is correct that RFR is a type of non-ionizing radiation, the findings of tumors and DNA damage in exposed animals demonstrate that such radiation can adversely affect “living tissue.” For children cancer risks may be greater than that for adults because of greater penetration and absorption of cellphone radiation in the brains of children and because the developing nervous system of children is more susceptible to tissue- damaging agents.

It is a tragedy when any individual dies of a preventable disease. The death of Keith Phillips from brain cancer might well have not happened if he had been aware of evidence linking cellphone radiation with cancer. In light of the accumulating evidence of increased cancer risk from cellphone RFR, precautionary measures should be implemented rather than waiting for the absolute proof that Mr. Culver seems to require before he would offer any caution to his family or friends. If we insist on definitive proof of human harm we are effectively treating ourselves and our families as lab rats in an experiment without any controls and without our consent.

Ronald Melnick, Ph.D, was a senior toxicologist in the Environmental Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences when he led the design of the NTP studies on cellphone RFR. He is now retired and serves as senior scientific advisor to the Environmental Health Trust.


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