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Meta-analysis: Still no link between cell phones and cancer

Via Skeptic North, good news for the side of science in the ongoing manufactroversy driven by people who are deathly afraid of wireless technology. A new meta-analysis of prior studies shows no link, causal or otherwise, between cellular phone usage and any of the forms of cancer commonly claimed by anti-wifi advocates. I’m sure this won’t stop them from repeating their claims that there must be damage if only we look at specific variations of the EMF spectrum.

We are constantly reminded of the failure of society to recognize the dangers of tobacco, let alone do something about it, and the industry led effort to suppress information and increase uncertainty in the pubic is held up as proof that all industries will stop at no lengths to protect their investment, despite dangers to the public. In the face of this, we need a scientific outlook to unblinker us from determining an unbiased truth. A new systematic review published in October’s Bioelectromagnetics is an excellent illustration of how we determine causality.


Rapacholi et al set out to systematically review the current knowledge of the effects of cell phones on brain cancer from the two major avenues used to determine causality: epidemiology and in vivo experiments (done in living animals). Through a very comprehensive systematic review format, where all of the studies matching a pre-determined set of criteria are evaluated for their quality and conclusions are drawn given all of the evidence, the researchers sought to lay out the state of the evidence for any connection between the use of cell phones and the incidence of several types of cancerous tumors in the head. They used all studies published in peer-reviewed journals up until January 2010, so they did not include the newest Danish epidemiological study, which showed no relationship between cell phones and cancer.
[…]
The authors found a consistent disagreement between all of the epidemiological studies and the results of Hardell et al, with the theme of this disagreement being poor study design and control of recall bias – the bias that creeps in when you ask a group of disease suffers to write down their exposure to a possible causative agent over many years of use – I do not know about you, but there is no way that I could accurately recall the amount of cell phone use I had 10 years ago without consulting a bill. Hardell is indicted consistently throughout the paper for having poor study design and was accorded less weight than the other more rigorous studies that were based on objective usage data or took extensive measures to investigate bias in their study, like the Interphone study (a new iteration of which has found no relation between cell phone use and acoustic neuromas).

What’s fascinating about this post is that it’s still drawing out the “you’re in Big Wireless’ pay” trolls. Our friends and allies at Skeptic North could probably do with an assist from you gentle readers.

Comments

  1. michaelswanson says

    >480kJ/mol: UV photons, X-rays, gamma rays
    240kJ/mol: green light photons
    <0.001kJ/mol: cell phone photons
    (Source: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/10-06-09/#feature)

    I showed these numbers to a coworker who's worried about cell phone use* and explained it to her this way:

    The integrity of the cells in her body and the energy levels of photons are like a house affected by wind. A hurricane will destroy your house in seconds, like hanging out at ground zero of a massive nuclear meltdown. Any concerns over long term use of a cell phone and the tiny amount of radiation it puts out are like being concerned about the long term effects of a gentle breeze on your house, or of someone blowing on your front door. It can go on endlessly, and it's total energy over time can meet or exceed that of the hurricane, but it's not going to affect the integrity of your house. Cell phones emit 1/240,000 the energy that green light does, and green light doesn’t cause cancer.

    Didn’t matter. She understood the numbers, understood that “radiation” is not always a dirty word, but just “doesn’t feel comfortable” about it.

    *Funny thing is that she had her radiations confused in the first place, and was actually concerned about Bluetooth devices being in her ear, so close to her brain. Also, she smokes. (I suppose if had to choose between lung or brain cancer, I’d take the lung cancer.)

  2. michaelswanson says

    I forgot to add the disclaimer: AT&T pays me a trillion dollars a year to lie about cell phone radiation to the, gee, ten or twelve people I’ve talked to about it. I live in a run down house and show up every day to a job that makes me want to cut my own head off as a smokescreen.

    It feels good to get that out in the open!

  3. ParticleMan says

    The thing is, cell phone use DOES get people killed and injured while driving. In fact, just DRIVING gets people killed and injured every day. No scary cancer. No invisible rays Just good old fashioned cuts and bruises and head trauma. How many people are scared about these things. Statistically, we ought to shake in our boots everytime we get near a car. Double that for being near a car with a cell phone in the driver’s hand. Why is it that people are so afraid of what they cannot see, but oblivious to the real, yet mundane danger that surrounds them every day?

  4. says

    Idiots will believe what they want to make them more comfortable while sending radio frequency radiation a billion times that of background radiation half way into their heads. What’s left o their brains leaves little room for critical thinking:

    The most plausible mechanism I am aware is via the NADH oxidase and similar targets located in
    in high density in the mitochondria membrane. [my emphasis]

    Friedman et al. ( http://www.biochemjusa.org/bj/405/0559/4050559.pdf ) has shown with a GSM signal an upregulation of the NADH oxidase
    ( http://physrev.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/87/1/245 ) within two minutes in an exposure related manner. The upregulation leads to an increased electron transfer via the membrane border and the formation of superoxide (02 -), which is an oxygen molecule loaded with an additional (free) electron. This superoxide when not eliminated via the superoxide dismutase (SOD) will primarily join with nitrogen oxid (NO) to form peroxynitrite (ONOO-). This is called nitrosative stress and the most potent physiological chemical compound we have in our cells /body.
    For further reading see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17237348
    Interestingly despite the huge amount of evidence the medical community is more or less not aware of the most important and basic issues of diseases. [my emphasis again]

  5. unbound says

    And here, finally, is where meta-analysis is actually useful. Not in showing links and trying to imply causality, but in showing that there are no links.

    Meta-analysis (and simple statistical analysis as well) is nothing more than an observation (yes, technically a bunch of observations that have been sifted to find meaningful data and thus a very good observation, but still only an observation). Just because a meta-analysis shows a relationship doesn’t mean a causal link is there, but when a meta-analysis shows the link isn’t evident, that is very good evidence that the theory being proposed is either simply wrong or needs notable changes.

    Of course, people like DM won’t like it as evidenced by the post above. Doesn’t matter what you want to pin the cause on, the real world evidence is that people are not getting cancer from the phone.

    Similarly, people don’t like it when it is pointed out that the meta-analysis that shows relationships doesn’t mean a whole lot either. But that is another story…

  6. says

    Idiots will believe what they want to make them more comfortable while sending radio frequency radiation a billion times that of background radiation half way into their heads.

    And yet green light is 240,000 times more powerful. If you shine a green light on your head, you’re sending radio frequency radiation 240 trillion times that of the cosmic background radiation through your head.

    White light, like that from the sun, is even more powerful than that.

    Why are we not dead the instant we step out into the sunlight, you ponce?

  7. says

    green light? go back to your physics class. there is a difference between green light and pulsed microwave radiation. you do the work. i am too tired and sick of the idiots that don’t read science. read the work of Neil Cherry. Or the thousands of military studies prior to 1971 that document 145 serious biological effects of RF the same frequency that we are dousing our kids with daily in school under the name of wi fi. The question no longer exists. Green light is like the idiots who compare a plane flight with an x ray. there is no comparison. they are not the same.

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