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No Link Between Cell Phones And Cancer? 
Journalist: Amy Norton
December 19, 2000

In the midst of concerns that the ubiquitous cell phone may be linked to brain cancer, findings from two US studies indicate that cell phone users are at no increased risk for the disease.

But the findings are not a green light to gab all day, according to the authors of both studies. They say their findings do not rule out a risk for brain cancer with long-term cell phone use.

The fist study, published in the December 20th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association focused on nearly 900 men and women aged 18 to 80, about half of whom had brain cancer.

The investigators found the risk was 20% lower among cell phone users compared with non-users. What's more, the risk was lower for cell phone users who talked more than 10 hours a month than for those who talked less than one hour per month. Joshua E. Muscat of the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York, led the study.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Muscat noted that while the cell phone scare has garnered much media attention, it has not pushed people to discard their phones. And these findings suggest there may be little reason to do so.

"Most people use their cell phones relatively infrequently," Muscat said. "We found that typical levels of cell phone use are not related to brain cancer."

However, he noted, this study looked only at possible short-term effects--subjects had used their phones for just under 3 years, on average. Long-range studies are still needed, Muscat said.

In the second study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Peter D. Inskip of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, compared the cell-phone use of nearly 800 patients with brain cancer to that of a similar number of healthy individuals.

They report finding "no evidence that risks were higher among persons who used cellular telephones for 60 or more minutes per day regularly for 5 or more years," versus those who did not. The study was released in advance of publication in the January 11th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Cell phones emit low levels of radiation that some animal research suggests may be powerful enough to damage DNA. But, Muscat said, other evidence suggests the radiation that may be absorbed from cell phones is not powerful enough to inflict genetic damage on brain cells.

In addition, he noted, if cell phone radiation triggers tumors, one would expect to find them in brain areas near the ear, on the side the phone was typically held. In this study, there was no such pattern.

Despite these reassuring results, however, the jury is still out on cell phones and brain cancer. Earlier this year, Swedish researchers linked cell phone use to an increased brain cancer risk among more than 600 subjects. Around the same time, the US Food and Drug Administration announced it would oversee industry-funded research into the possible link over the next few years.

Muscat said that while more studies are needed, he doubts long-term cell phone use will be found to cause brain cancer. "We have little reason to believe it does," he said, "but for now we simply don't know."

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