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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
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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.

A 2006 Danish study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed no link between brain tumors and cell phone use among people who had had cell phones for up to 21 years.

Not all cell phone research has been related to cancer.

In May 2008, a study published online in Epidemiology showed a statistical association between cell phone use during pregnancy and increased risk of children's behavior problems. That study did not prove that cell phones were to blame.

And in September 2007, researchers in India reported that longtime cell phone users who talk more than an hour a day may be more likely to have high-frequency hearing loss.

There is one safety risk that is established -- you shouldn't talk on your cell phone while driving, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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