Cell Phone/Brain Cancer Connection Getting Weaker.
According to editorialist Robert L. Park, PhD, "whenever you have one of these fear episodes, it's big business; it creates an industry." Since electromagnetic field and cancer first appeared in the same sentence, "people are now in the business of measuring the fields, others litigate the lawsuits that arise, others sell fraudulent protection devices, and others publish newsletters that wouldn't exist were there no problem," he tells WebMD.
Park, author of the book Voodoo Science, is professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and director of the Washington, D.C., Office of the American Physical Society, a group that he says "concerns itself with the interface between physics and society."
It's human nature to look for, and accept, a scapegoat, says Park, especially when it's presented as science. "You run across cases where children have leukemia, and it tears the parents apart. They say 'Why my child?' They leap at it when someone comes along and says it's because of a power line or a cell phone," he tells WebMD.
According to Boice, "it's hard to speculate on why, but the public believes there is an association." From a strictly scientific perspective, however, "the non-ionizing radiation emitted by cell phones does not have the energy to break chemical bonds or damage DNA," he says. "There is no plausible biological mechanism to explain, or experimental data to back-up, the idea that these radiofrequencies are dangerous in any way."
But that's not necessarily so, says Louis Slesin, PhD, editor of the increasingly controversial periodical Microwave News. The study provides "good baseline data showing that there are no short-term effects, but they don't answer the important questions regarding prolonged, intensive use," he tells WebMD.
"The average follow-up in this study was only 3.5 years. The bulk of the people, 69%, only started using a cell phone in 1994, and the study ended in 1995," says Slesin. "But cells phones are now being marketed to children, who will have 40-plus years of use.
"Park is saying that it's all tripe, that there's nothing here," says Slesin, "but there is plenty of other opinion disagreeing with him. There is something going on here. The English and the French are telling kids to keep calls short and use the phones prudently. They have a view that we need to be cautious until the data is in."
But according to Boice, at this point, "the evidence ... is just overwhelmingly negative with regard to any carcinogenic potential. If there is a hazard from cell phones, it's the distraction," he says. "When you're driving down the highway and try to dial a phone number -- that's the big risk."