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Cell Phone Use Could Pose Danger To Kids
Dr. Christian Schultheis won't let his children have a cell phone.
"Because they don't need one," said Schultheis, an oncologist with Medical Associates Clinic.
But recent renewed warnings give an even better reason for not giving cell phones to children -- a possible link between cell phone use and cancer.
Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, sounded the latest alarm -- basing his concerns on early, unpublished data.
"Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman wrote in a memo he sent to about 3,000 institute faculty and staff.
Herberman cautioned that children should only use cell phones for emergencies.
"Neural development in a kid is different, so the risk of developing a brain tumor (from cell phone use) could be higher -- theoretically it makes sense," Schultheis said. "But we don't have anything definitive."
Statistics from the Pew Research Center show as many as 78 percent of all adults own a cell phone, including 86 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 55 percent of Americans 65 and older. Pew doesn't compile statistics on people younger than 18.
However, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that in 2004, 21 percent of 8- to 10-year-olds and 36 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds had cell phones.
Previous studies have been unable to conclusively link cell phone usage to increased cancer risk. In December 2000, an American Health Foundation study concluded that the use of wireless phones was unrelated to the risk of brain cancer, but the authors recommended the need for further research.
The Cellular Telephone Industry Association has stated that "more research is needed in this area to provide definitive answers to any questions that might still exist."
"We don't really know the risk," he said. "The best way to study this would be to pick some people and follow them for 15 or 20 years."
Such long-term, comprehensive studies have broadened knowledge of heart disease, and Schultheis said a similar investigation of brain tumors would probably uncover a number of causes.
"There is more than one factor by all means," he said. "Is using a cell phone the only factor? Probably not. Could it be a contributing factor? Probably. I would say everything in moderation."