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Are Cell Phones Safe? Questions & Answers

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Expert Urges Limited Use; Get Answers to Questions About Cell Phone Safety

Should parents limit kids' cell phone use?

Fisher, who spoke to WebMD via cell phone, says he sees good reason to limit kids' cell phone use -- just not out of cancer fears.

"I restrict my own kids' use of cell phones. We don't sit in bed and talk on our cell phones at night, and we don't get to use them when we're 5 years old. But that's more about good parenting and parental choice than about science," Fisher says.

"Common sense should prevail," he says, noting that kids can get distracted by cell phones. "I don't think kids should be given unrestrained access 24-7 to cell phones. It should be limited. But it shouldn't be done because of paranoia or fear of perceived risks that aren't established."

Setting limits "out of your own philosophy and life choices, that's very different than doing it out paranoia. That's why I'm disappointed by the statement from the folks in Pittsburgh ... it's not an appeal to healthy living and happy development for children, it's an appeal to people's paranoia about modern living."

What does the wireless industry say?

Here's what Joe Farren, assistant vice president for CTIA -- the Wireless Association (the industry group for wireless communication, including cell phones), says.

"We have always believed this issue must be guided by science. And when you examine the overwhelming majority of studies that have been peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals, you'll find no link between wireless usage and adverse health effects," Farren tells WebMD.

"This isn't just our opinion. This is the view of leading global health organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

Farren notes that Herberman's views "are not based on scientific evidence."

What does the research say?

No studies have proven that cell phones cause brain cancer or other health problems. But none has ruled out health risks once and for all, either.

Here's a quick recap of recent studies on cell phone use and cancer. These studies don't directly test cell phones to see if they cause cancer; rather, they're observational studies in large groups of people. Observational studies don't prove cause and effect.

In February 2008, Israeli researchers reported no overall increase in the risk of tumors in the parotid gland (a salivary gland) with regular cell phone use, with a possible (but not confirmed) increase in risk in people who use cell phones a lot more than normal. That contradicts a Swedish study published in 2006 that showed no increased risk of parotid gland tumors for any amount of cell phone use.

In 2007, French and Norwegian studies published in European journals showed no increased risk of brain tumors in adults from regular cell phone use.

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