Cell Phones and Children

by updated 2012/04/25

Photo by Nevit Dilmen

This is the sort of news story that can drive you crazy!  Now I have written enough times on the speculation of a link between cell phone use and cancer for regular readers to know that I am not sure what to believe.  Those same readers also know that main-stream media articles on almost any subject can drive me to pull my hair out.  Actually it looks like I’ve pulled out a lot of it already and probably should find a new way of venting my frustration with these articles.  So let me vent with this post!

USA Today recently published an article titled “Cellphones don’t increase cancer risk in kids, study says“.  This article goes on and on about how researchers have shown that “using cellphones doesn’t increase children’s cancer risk.  The article reads more like a press release from the cell phone manufacturers association than it does like an independent assessment of the study.  Now maybe it is just poor writing in the USA Today article, but there appears to be either incomplete information in the article, or a total contradiction in relaying the results.

You can read the article and see for yourself but what caught my attention was this…  After stating several ways to Sunday that there is no increased childhood cancer risk from cell phone use, there is this gem about 3/4ths of the way through the article:

In a subset of children, researchers found a higher risk of brain tumors in children whose cellphone subscriptions had begun more than 2.8 years ago.

What that means exactly I cannot tell. I read the abstract of the article but that “subset” is not addressed. To read the full study you either have to be a paying subscriber to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, or buy one-day access to the study online. I did find a good summary of the study written by two epidemiologists but that also did not seem to directly address this subset of children who did have increased cancer rates.

Will Sig
1 Binky

Unfortunately, this type of study and article seem to be very prevalent these days. You can prove virtually anything you want by adjusting the data, and when money is involved it’s hard to find the real truth. (Coincidentally , I just posted a cartoon on this very point.)
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2 Jan

Ah well you see Will the “subset” was obviously a weird bunch of children that didn’t fit what the researchers wanted to find, which is why they have put them in a subset, because then you can discount them as they don’t fit the “norm”! I have read research that was most definite that children who use mobile phones are at risk of developing non-malignant tumors. But who knows what will come after a few more years of use. I think that the findings on mobile phones will develop in the same way that the findings about smoking developed. Years of denial, followed by proof positive, but by then too late for many.
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3 Will

Yes it is almost as if that “subset” was discounted only because they did not fit the anticipated, or desired results.

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4 Tony McGurk

It’s just so uncool for kids not to have a phone, like smoking & drinking. Hard to stop coolness no matter how bad it is for you. I use a bluetooth headset for when I’m driving for work deliveries because someone from work will often ring while I’m on the road. I wonder if they are bad for you too?

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5 Will

You know I am really big on technology and use mine all the time. Although using it as an actual phone is a small portion of my use. When I do I pretty much always use the speaker.

I really think it should be on the industry to make them less of a concern. But then the industry says there is already nothing to be concerned about. I hope for the sake of millions, they are correct.

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6 BIAP

My personal opinion is that at this moment it is very difficult to say if Rf Emf (e.g. cell phones) can cause cancer or not, mabe we will know it exactly in 10 or even 20 years later. However the IARC, an organistation of the WHO, which has in my eyes a high reputation, classified in this year radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possible carcinogenic to humans (pronouncation is on possible), here you will find more information: http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf
A more detailed study was published in lancet oncology: “Carcinogenicity of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields” http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045%2811%2970147-4/fulltext
So I will try that my sun don’t use the cell phone to much

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