If you’ve built a career out of trying to prove that cell phones cause brain cancer, chances are, it’s time to find a new career.
While the Internet has been abuzz for years with pseudo-science regarding cell phones and brain tumors (and Wi-Fi and excitability in children, and no doubt tablet computers and toe fungus), the science simply hasn’t backed up these claims. A new study published in the journal Epidemiology based on data in four Nordic countries has yet again failed to find a link between cell phone usage and a type of brain cancer called a glioma.
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The Scandinavian countries are a good starting point for any study seeking a connection between cancer and cell phone usage: mobile penetration there is high and began far earlier compared to the rest of Europe and North America. The study examined data over a 20-year period of mobile phone users in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Gliomas – the type of tumor that would be expected if the mobile phone was a cancer-causing culprit -- are still not becoming more common in Scandinavia, despite more than 15 years of heavy-duty mobile phone use across a range of age groups, according to a BGR news article published this week. While mobile phones do use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range – which theoretically could produce negative health effects in very high doses – there is still no real, clear-cut evidence of harm, even in heavy cell phone users.
The lack of a link is particularly problematic if you’re a lawyer trying to sue wireless equipment and services providers on behalf of patients with tumors. Class-action lawsuits, most common in the U.S., have had limited success, largely because there is little real science to back up the claim. While a number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of clients with cancers against cell phone companies – most notably Motorola (News - Alert) – judges have generally disallowed the suits from proceeding, unconvinced by the expert testimony regarding a link. Some plaintiffs have had more luck in Europe, most notably in France and Italy.
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that something called “a precautionary principle” should be voluntarily adopted regarding mobile phones and cancer. According to the WHO, the "precautionary principle" is "a risk management policy applied in circumstances with a high degree of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research."
This leaves many parties – plaintiffs, lawyers, mobile phone manufacturers and service providers – in a bit of limbo for the moment. But given the dogged persistence of vaccine-autism rumors, despite all science to the contrary, it’s unlikely that the issue will simply go away anytime soon.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman