For years debate has raged as to whether or not cell phones pose a health risk. Specifically, some Health Coach worry that prolonged cell phone use might cause cancer.
Cell phone manufacturers and other cell phone proponents scoff at such worries, pointing to a number of large scale studies that have found no connection between cell phone use and cancer. Other health officials, however, counter these assurances by pointing to different studies that do indicate an increased risk of cancer among cell phone users.
So what are we to believe? Are cell phones safe or not?
The answer is that neither side of the debate can claim with absolute certainty that they are right. Cell phones may indeed be perfectly safe, or they may not be. We simply won't know until more research is conducted.
In the meantime, however, a warning about cell phones issued last month (July 2008) by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute suggests that we would be wise to take precautions when we use cell phones. In fact, Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of both the Institute and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cancer Centers, issued an advisory to all faculty and staff members of both institutions about possible health risks associated with cell phone use.
In his memorandum to them, he wrote, "Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer. Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use." And in an interview, he cited the fact that public health officials in other countries, including Canada, also recommend limiting cell phone use, especially children and teenagers.
Dr. Herberman has also joined more than 20 other international experts in signing a document calling for precautions with regard to cell phone use. Also signing the document were Dr. Devra Davis, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Center for Environmental Oncology, and Dr. Servan-Schreiber, a brain cancer survivor.
The concerns Dr. Herberman and his colleagues have about cell phone use stem, in part, from preliminary data from a 13-country study of cell phone use and tumors known as the Interphone study. Although release of the study's overall findings has been delayed for more than two years, according to Dr. Slesin, a number of European countries have already reported an elevated risk for certain brain tumors among long-term cell phone users, particularly on the side of the head where the phone is used. Dr. Slesin adds that a separate group of Swedish researchers reported similar findings.
"From a public health perspective, it makes sense to limit risks," advises Dr. Dan Wartenberg, director of environmental epidemiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and another of the international experts calling for precautions when using cell phones.
In addition to the document they signed, the group of experts is also calling on cell phone manufacturers to provide phones "with the lowest possible risk" and is encouraging cell phone users to operate cell phones "in a way that is most compatible with preserving their health." This include taking measures to limit exposure to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the cell phones, such as shortening the length of conversations and keeping cell phones away from the head by text messaging or using headsets or speaker phone options. The group also recommends that children not use cell phones except in emergencies because a child's developing organs "are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure."
Reducing Your Risk
In light of the group's call for such precautions, it makes sense to implement their suggestions. After all, as the old saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry. Here are some steps you can take to continue to use cell phones while at the same time protecting your health: