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Brain tumors not caused by cell phones, study finds, but research remains debatable

SHARE Brain tumors not caused by cell phones, study finds, but research remains debatable

A new study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found that cell phones pose no greater risk of brain cancer to children who regularly use cell phones than to those who don't.

Cell phones emit non-ionizing waves, and concern that this radiation could negatively affect the development of children's nervous systems, possibly causing brain tumors, has prompted large-scale health studies to find out how founded those concerns are, the journal reported.

The study randomly chose 646 children and adolescents between the ages 7 and 19 in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. They also studied 352 children randomly chosen from the general population diagnosed with brain tumors between 2004 and 2008.

"Consistent with virtually all studies of adults exposed to radio frequency waves, no convincing evidence was found that children who use cell phones are at higher risk of developing a brain tumor than children who do not regularly use cell phones," researchers wrote in their report.

However, debate remains about whether cell phone cancer risk for children should be dismissed as inconsequential so easily, reports CNN.

The researchers of the study defined regular cell phone use as one cell phone call a week for at least six months, considerably low when compared to a Pew Research Center 2010 study detailing adolescent cell phone use.

"Teens typically make or receive five calls a day. White teens typically make or receive four calls a day, or around 120 calls a month, while black teens exchange seven calls a day or about 210 calls a month, and Hispanic teens typically make and receive five calls a day or about 150 calls a month," Pew's report said.

CNN also said research has found it could be years or decades for the exposure to a carcinogen like the radiation in non-ionizing waves to develop a brain tumor, as stated by the National Cancer Institute.

"That means if a 13-year-old starts using a cell phone on a daily basis in 2011, it will be years or decades before any damaging evidence is seen," the CNN article said. "Very few people believe talking on the phone once a week for six months will cause brain cancer. But for teens who are using their cell phones in a more typical fashion — at least five times per day — the answer is less clear."

Devra Davis, president of Environmental Health Trust, is one not completely convinced by the new study.

"This new JNCI report represents an astonishing, disturbing and unwarranted conclusion," she said, adding, "…interestingly, the researchers advocate, as we do, taking simple precautions including the use of a headset and speakerphone. But to conclude — as an editorial written by industry-associated scientists accompanying the article does — that children face no risks from cell phones, does a profound disservice to the public."

While Martin Roosli, lead author of the Journal's study and an epidemiologist at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, maintains that the research shows that people can stop worrying that cell phones cause brain tumors, he acknowledges the limitations of the study and told The Wall Street Journal that researchers "should still keep an eye" on any adverse health effects cell phone usage could potentially have as that usage continues to increase.

EMAIL: rcampbell@desnews.com