Cell-Phones - Do They Pose a Risk?

Cell phones are ubiquitous. Web statistics of the major cell-phone companies indicate that one in every three Americans owns one. In many countries world-wide, the numbers may be even higher. At the same time, many people are apprehensive about potential health effects of the phones, and of the towers that serve their networks. Is there a basis to their fears? If there were a major health hazard associated with cell-phones, one would expect it to be noticed by now - after all, cell-phones have been around for more than a decade, and if they had some long-term health impact, it should show up in epidemiological studies.

Our first report comes from a recent comprehensive study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, v 93, p 842 (2005). The study deals with a growth called "Acoustic neuroma", that is non-cancerous, and develops on a nerve leading from the brain to the inner ear. Because this part of the head is closest to the ear that receives radiation from a cell-phone, one might assume that it is most susceptible to the radiation compared to other possible growths and ailments.

The study took place in the U.K., Norway, Sweden and Denmark. 678 patients who contracted acoustic neuroma were studied and compared to 3553 control people. The control people were randomly selected to have the same distribution of age, sex and region as the patients. The study involved detailed interviews of all involved, concerning their use of cell-phones, the duration, frequency, model, whether they preferred one ear over the other (or randomly used both), whether they used it in an urban or rural environment, and whether they spoke "hands-free". People who started using a cell-phone less than a year before the start of the study were excluded, since it was unlikely that a neuroma could develop in such a short period.

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Updated - January 01, 2010