Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Looming Cancer Danger of the Cell Phone

A few years ago, in the early development days of the cell phone--when they were still the size of a small toaster--my friend Ted Rappaport worried about the potential for cancer of the brain with the cell's radio waves.

At the time, Ted was an engineering professor at Virginia Tech and founder of the Mobile Portable Radio Group, the research arm that, in effect, gave us cellular technology as we know it. I was editor of the Blue Ridge Business Journal at the time and dubbed Ted "the Michael Jordan of cellular technology." He was and the king (he's at the University of Texas) and the cancer worry is still there.

On the way home from a little antiquing this afternoon, Christina and I heard on "The People's Pharmacy" one David Servan-Schreiber, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who has lived with brain tumors for years. In his new book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life, he talks in depth about living in a way that minimizes risks of cancer.

One of those risks, he says, is cellular telephone use, despite what study after study has shown. Servan-Schreiber compares the potential damage from cell phones to that of cigarettes and he says there's another possible similarity: studies done on cell phone users have been taken over periods of about five years, not enough time to show damage. He says that if cigarette tests were done over periods of less than 10 years' use, there would be no damage shown. He believes that time will show cell phones are dangerous cancer-causing agents.

He also suggests ways to minimize the risks. Here are three:
  • Use an earpiece and keep the phone away from your head. The more distance between the phone and the head, the better for the head.
  • If you receive a call on your cell phone and it is possible, call back on a land line. Don't disconnect your land line for that very reason. Use it and use the cell only when absolutely necessary.
  • In low signal areas, avoid cell use because the phone boosts its power to compensate and could be more dangerous because of that.
I recognize this is another instance of the nanny shaking the finger of warning about something people like to do, but cancer is pretty serious business. Servan-Schreiber can tell you all about it.

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