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FDA Questions Latest Cell Phone Safety Study
Journalist: Susan Heavey
April 06, 2006

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday questioned a recently published study that raised concerns about a heightened risk of brain cancer in wireless phone users, but added the agency would review all related data.

Swedish researchers said last month the use of cellular phones over a long period of time can raise the risk of brain tumors. Their findings contradict a number of earlier studies and are "difficult to interpret," the FDA said.

The FDA noted the study used a mailed questionnaire with a few follow-up interviews by telephone rather than in-person evaluations. It also did not make certain statistical adjustments to take possible other factors into account, the agency said.

Still, the FDA said it "plans to convene a meeting in the near future to evaluate research conducted to date in this area and identify gaps in knowledge that warrant additional research."

It also will continue to monitor studies for possible health problems stemming from exposure to radio frequency energy.

The FDA said it posted its comments on its Web site after receiving numerous queries following the latest findings. In the past, the agency and the Federal Communications Commission have said there is no known cancer risk, but if there is any risk, it is likely very small.

The Swedish study is not consistent with several other long-terms studies published over the years that found no evidence of harm from radiation emitted from cell phones.

A Dutch Health Council review of research from around the world did not find harm from the phones or TV towers, which also emit radiation. Another four-year British survey showed no link between regular, long-term use of cell phones and the most common type of tumor.

An industry representative said the vast majority of scientists have already concluded wireless phones are safe.

"When you objectively look at the enormous body of science that exists, you have to conclude that there is no evidence of adverse health effects," said Joe Farren, spokesman for CTIA, a wireless industry trade association.

He added the FDA had already been planning to conduct a review.

Other scientific experts have said driving while using cell phones is more dangerous than the threat of cancer.

The researchers at the Swedish National Institute for Working Life compared data from 2,200 cancer patients and an equal number of healthy patients.

Those who heavily used wireless phones had a 240 percent increased risk of a cancerous tumor on the side of the head where they used their phone, they reported on March 31.

The results, published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, defined heavy use of wireless phones as 2,000 or more hours, or about one hour per day for 10 years.

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