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Swedish Study Finds Cell Phone Cancer Risk 282

Posted by Zonk
from the i-call-my-tumor-tummy dept.
dtjohnson writes "A new Swedish study has found that heavy users of cell phones had a 240 percent increase in brain tumors on the side of their head that the phone was used on. The study defined 'heavy' use as more than 2,000 total hours, or approximately one hour of use per workday for 10 years. An earlier British study was previously discussed here that didn't find an increased risk, although that study covered fewer subjects and only followed one type of brain tumor for a shorter period of time. Or course, the biggest epidemiological study of all is the one we are all participating in whenever we use our cell phone. The results from that study won't be available for a while."
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Swedish Study Finds Cell Phone Cancer Risk

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  • News? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eMartin (210973)
    Um... Didn't we know this like 20 years ago?
    • Re:News? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MoonFog (586818) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:46AM (#15044615)
      Don't know if you're joking or not, but even in the summary it is mentioned the British article which goes against this, so no, we didn't "know" this 20 years ago. Hell, we still don't KNOW that it causes tumours either. What's significant about this study is the timespan of it.
    • Read the Study (Score:4, Insightful)

      by raydulany (892228) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @12:52PM (#15045959) Journal
      If you read the study (and know anything about experimental design) you will see that the "results" aren't nearly so impressive as they claim. The short of it: they looked at a bunch of people who already had brain cancer, and then determined how many of them used a cell phone (roughly) an hour per day. I don't know about you, but most people I know use cell phones that often on average, and so it comes as no suprise to me that approx. 85% of the people in the study had high cell phone use. What this shows is ALMOST NOTHING because it doesn't compare what the rate of high cell phone use is among the general population. All it proves is that in a group of people who had brain cancer a lot of them used cell phones. In case it seems like I'm talking circularly, think of this analogous example: if I took a group of people with brain cancer and surveyed them we would probably find that a very high percentage of them (1) drink coffee every day (2) watch television every day (3) breath air every day, but you wouldn't immediately say "OMG, [Coffee, TV, Breathing] causes brain cancer!" Anyone who believed this story without at least reading a description of the study should stop breathing now so that they don't get cancer.
      • Re:Read the Study (Score:3, Interesting)

        by budgenator (254554)
        wrong answer, 85 out of 905 CA patients were high users; that's 9.4 %, much less than the amount what you're ridiculing the study for being alarmist over.

        One thing I'd be curious about is because the study reported that people who use cell phone have a 240% greater chance of their tumor being located on the side of the brain that they hold their cells on, what percentage of right-handed people have malignant tumors on the left-side of their brains (left brian controls right body) and left-handers with malig
  • Assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:47AM (#15044619) Homepage Journal
    Kjell Mild, who led the study, said the figures meant that heavy users of mobile phones, for instance of who make mobile phone calls for 2,000 hours or more in their life, had a 240 percent increased risk for a malignant tumor on the side of the head the phone is used.
    "The way to get the risk down is to use hands-free," he told Reuters.

    How does he know that? Did his study make that conclusion? The article doesn't say anything about use of hands free kits beyond that statement.

    I think Mr Mild is making assumptions about the reason for the apparent 240% increase, and factors which he thinks may be important.

    • Well, what is identified as the main reason behind tumours is the radiation that comes from the antenna of the cell phone. Using a hands-free set makes sure that the antenna is far away from your head. Now, having it in your front pocket ...
      • Re:Assumptions (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)
        Well, what is identified as the main reason behind tumours is the radiation that comes from the antenna of the cell phone.

        TFA doesn't say that except with reference to a British study.

        Using a hands-free set makes sure that the antenna is far away from your head.

        Some phones put so much RF into the hands free kit that radiation exposure is worse on hands free. It would be even worse if you leave the earpiece in between calls.

        • Re:Assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ByteSlicer (735276) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @07:46AM (#15045090)
          Some phones put so much RF into the hands free kit that radiation exposure is worse on hands free

          Riiight... If you can make the GHz RF radiation travel into the wire of your earpiece, then you should patent it quickly, because then you've managed to do something that no radio engineer deemed possible... There's something called matching impedance you might want to investigate.
          • Re:Assumptions (Score:2, Insightful)

            by MichaelSmith (789609)

            While we are at it we can argue about how a few watts of photons with less energy than infrared can cause cancer while kilowatts from a nice comfy open fire do not.

            • While we are at it we can argue about how a few watts of photons with less energy than infrared can cause cancer while kilowatts from a nice comfy open fire do not.

              I call bullshit. If you can get a sunburn from a good fire (as I've done many times before while camping) then it CAN cause cancer. Eventually that much damage (plus fires do throw off UV radiation, not much but it's still there) will cause cancer.
              • You can get sunburn from a fire?

                WTF are you burning ?

                • by Khyber (864651)
                  "Virtually all fires emit some radiation in the UVB band, while the Sun's radiation at this band is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere." That comes from the wikipedia link I posted below to budgenator. It doesn't matter what the hell I burn. Hydrogen flames will emit high levels of UV and low levels of IR, while a coal flame will produce lower levels of UV, and high levels of IR. Either way, I'm still getting exposed to UV radiation. Now read my sig and go someplace else.
              • Re:Assumptions (Score:3, Informative)

                by budgenator (254554)
                Most people concider the word sunburn to mean the internal cellular damage and inflamatory resonse caused by low energy ionizing photons eminating from the sun commonly refered to as UVA and UVB rays. I suspect that the damage you are reciving is from non-ionizing infrared, if your so close to the fire that your getting burned from IR absortion, you need to make smaller fires and move back a bunch or you'll never live long enough to get cancer.
            • Re:Assumptions (Score:5, Informative)

              by Nightlight3 (248096) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @02:02PM (#15046215)
              While we are at it we can argue about how a few watts of photons with less energy than infrared can cause cancer while kilowatts from a nice comfy open fire do not.

              The penetration depth of EM waves is roughly of the size of wavelength. Hence, the infrared radiation from a fire doesn't even penetrate the human skin (the heat will eventually transmit deeper via molecular vibrations but that is a slower mechanicsm and we have evolved a biological warning system via pain sensation), while the RF radiation from the cell phones (or similarly the microwave ovens), which is several orders of magnitudes longer, penetrates and is absorbed by entire brain. Since the presence of RF emitter near brain is a very recent occurence on evolutionary time scales, we don't have a built in biological warning for the damage it does. The whole generation of current teenagers will be going senile in their thirties.
              • I think it should also be pointed out that if the fire is emmitting in the infrared, it is *also* emitting in the microwave. Infact, it is emitting across the spectrum with a peak wavelength determined by the temperature. see the wiki on blackbody radiation [wikipedia.org].
          • There's something called a transmission line that you might want to investigate.
    • "The way to get the risk down is to use hands-free," he told Reuters.

      Now we need a study on testicular cancer. They are sensitive, you know. Handedness might not matter as much there, but it can make you blind.

    • Re:Assumptions (Score:2, Interesting)

      by erkulikondrio (911578)
      "The way to get the risk down is to use hands-free," he told Reuters.

      And if I use SMS ?
  • There's got to be some long term damage to putting a radio transmitter which radiates electromagnetic energy right beside your head. I do mean *long term* damage, the only people that really have to worry are yappy pre-pubescent teenage girls, and we have too many of them anyways.
    • Re:suprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:06AM (#15044673)
      "There's got to be some long term damage to putting a radio transmitter which radiates electromagnetic energy right beside your head."

      Why? As has been repeated ad nauseam whenever this debate comes about, the frequencies used by cell phones are non-activating. If holding a tiny, low-power transmitter next to your head causes cancer, then people who work at TV and FM stations should be dropping like flies.

      All we know at this point (assuming the study's methodolgy holds water) is that there is a correlation between cell phone use and brain tumors. It could mean that cell phones cause brain tumors, it could mean that people prone to brain tumors talk on the phone a lot.

      And even if it is eventually shown that cell phones cause brain tumors, that still doesn't necessarily mean it is the radio transciever aspect of the phone that is the culprit. It very well may be exposure to toxic chemicals used in the displays or the batteries, for example, much the same way toxic pesticides used around electrical pylons had people thinking high-voltage lines caused cancer.
      • Re:suprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rbarreira (836272) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:30AM (#15044724) Homepage
        And how would you explain that the tumors were more likely to be located on the side of the head closest to where the user would put the phone?
        • Re:suprised? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mabinogi (74033)
          And how would you explain that the tumors were more likely to be located on the side of the head closest to where the user would put the phone?

          "It very well may be exposure to toxic chemicals used in the displays or the batteries..."


          That's how.
        • Re:suprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          And how would you explain that the tumors were more likely to be located on the side of the head closest to where the user would put the phone?

          Well, if it is unrelated, that would be easy to prove. What side of the brain are most tumors found? Or is it equal on both? What side of the head do most people hold the cell phone on? I know I use phones mainly with my right-hand/ear, so preferences do exist. If there is an unrelated propensity for right-brain tumors and right-hand cell usage, then the causa
      • Re:suprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anne Thwacks (531696)
        people who work at TV and FM stations should be dropping like flies.

        Except that they don't go nea the antenna (or they would be cooked), and thee is such a thing as the invese squae law.

        Howeve, if the study coves 20 yeas, then it coves the time when cellphones put out a steady 4 watts. Now they can pehaps peak at that, but now they use adaptive power levels, the average power level while transmitting is generally below 100mW, and often below 4mW.However, the power from a domestic light bulb in that band

        • Re:suprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RedWizzard (192002)
          However, the power from a domestic light bulb in that band is? and the SUn's radiation is massively greeater
          Can you provide some references for the claims you're making here (that incandescent light bulbs and the sun both output significant amounts of radiation on the same frequencies as cell phones)? It's seems unlikely - neither cause obvious interferrence with cell phones, which I'd expect if the power levels are remotely similar.
        • I would say a lot of skin cancer researchers would be surprised by your claim that being exposed to sunlight doesn't kill anyone.
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:50AM (#15044625)
    Or course, the biggest epidemiological study of all is the one we are all participating in whenever we use our cell phone. The results from that study won't be available for a while.

    Not really. The metering is lousy. The control group is corrupted. Heck, the technology is changing, so the signals are different. As a study, the world at large makes a lousy experiment for this.
    • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LucidBeast (601749)
      ... and you forgot: those who don't answer the phone in fear of radiation get killed off by their spouses when they get home by night.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:52AM (#15044630) Homepage
    This article is poor (I would say unethical) coverage of a scientific study.

    For example, to say something is associate with a 240% increase in risk can be technically accurate, but horribly misleading to most readers. If one in a billion people get a disease, a 240% increase makes your chance of getting it 2.4/1000000000. That is absolutely nothing to worry about.

    Also, with this studay, they found out people who had tumors, then asked them if they used cell phones. The subjects probably had no doubt as to why this question was being asked, therefore this was not really a double blind experiment.

    Has anyone ever been able to give a rat cancer by blasting it with amplified cellphone-type radiation? That would convince me of the possibility of cell phone risk much more than digging backward through statistical inormation does.
    • "Has anyone ever been able to give a rat cancer by blasting it with amplified cellphone-type radiation?" can't say I've ever blasted rats with cellphone radiation, but you should see what a microwave does to them!
    • For example, to say something is associate with a 240% increase in risk can be technically accurate, but horribly misleading to most readers.

      I think the problem there is with "most readers", not with an accurate statement of the risk increase. Furthermore, the absolute numbers are stated in the article, and knowing the population of Sweden, it's easy to compute the absolute risk.

      Has anyone ever been able to give a rat cancer by blasting it with amplified cellphone-type radiation? That would convince me of
      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:06AM (#15044676)
        If the incidence is so low that you can't do a study to demonstrate it properly then we've got FAR more important things to worry about. I bet your increased risk of getting hit by a bus because you're talking on your stupid phone instead of paying attention is more significant.
        • I bet your increased risk of getting hit by a bus because you're talking on your stupid phone instead of paying attention is more significant.

          The people who died in this way were unavailable to participate in the study.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:04AM (#15044666)
      Another problem with a lot of these studies is that they use the other side of the brain as a control. You're supposed to get tumors more often on the side of your head you use the phone on. How consistent are people always using it on the same side?

      Not to mention I suspect the people who used cell phones extensively twenty years ago are probably a very special group... probably with all kinds of interesting common factors.
    • This study is possibly even worse than that.

      There is going to be a huge selection bias in personality types that use cell phones heavily. For example, these people are probably overworked, stressed or just type-a people, in which case their immune system isn't running at quite the same level as non cell users (chronic stress causes hormonal reductions in the immune system as well as a whole range of other changes). This alone would account for increased cancer.

      I wonder if these people also had increases o
    • "This article is poor (I would say unethical) coverage of a scientific study. [snip...] Also, with this studay, they found out people who had tumors, then asked them if they used cell phones. The subjects probably had no doubt as to why this question was being asked, therefore this was not really a double blind experiment."

      I will not argue that the CNet article represents this study very well, but if you are going to complain so casually about coverage of this study -- even calling it unethical -- it woul

    • There are lies, damned lies, and statistics

      Mark Twain

    • For example, to say something is associate with a 240% increase in risk can be technically accurate, but horribly misleading to most readers. If one in a billion people get a disease, a 240% increase makes your chance of getting it 2.4/1000000000. That is absolutely nothing to worry about.

      Actually, that would be 3.4 per billion.
  • by mocm (141920) * on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:54AM (#15044637) Homepage
    A 240% increase sounds huge, but they never tell you what the original risk is. There is a difference between doubling a 10% risk or a 0.00001% risk.
  • by Rooked_One (591287) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:54AM (#15044639) Journal
    when all the shitty drivers that have pissed me off so much get tumors... no, i'll just feel bad for them - yet again. =/
  • by Techojoe (704378) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @03:59AM (#15044653)
    While it has been suspected for some time that cell phones may cause tumors there has been considerable debate over the subject. Telcos and phone makers taking the anti health risk stance for obvious reasons.The phone companies have put large sums of money into reaserch to tell them and us that the phones themselves are harmless. It looks now as if an independant? researcher has added to the body of evidence that there is in fact a real risk. To temper that however it appears you have to be a pretty heavy user to be at risk. Interestingly the mobil phone towers them selves seem to escape the scruting that the handsets have been subjected to.
    • The phone companies have put large sums of money into reaserch to tell them and us that the phones themselves are harmless.

      No, "the phone companies" are spread across both ends of the issue. The telcos without cell-phone interests would much rather show cell phones to be dangerous.

      Neither fact should, in any way, lead anyone to jump to the opposite conclusion.

      It looks now as if an independant? researcher has added to the body of evidence that there is in fact a real risk.

      No. Correlation != Causation.

      You c

  • by nfarrell (127850) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @04:21AM (#15044708)
    I don't know why it's not linked to any any of the articles, but here's the scientific paper. If we're going to critique it, we might as well do it right:

    http://www.arbetslivsinstitutet.se/pdf/060331MildH ardell_Article.pdf [arbetslivsinstitutet.se]
    • The proper control group is patients with cancer in other parts of their body, not healthy controls.

      That wipes out stress as a potential confound (under the reasonable assumption that people who were early adopters of cell phones were more often the type of people to have stressful jobs).

      This is bad science, and that's usually the result of the fame motivation that comes with work in high profile areas. Projects like this generate front page news no matter what the result, hence they are extremely attrac
    • Thanks for the link to the study. For the record I am a 2nd year medical student, have taken (and passed!) coursework on epidemiology, and have been published as first author in a reputable journal, the point being that I am a bit more qualified than Joe Sixpack to comment on the study. Reply to this post if you want a link to my study, but be warned that it is of limited general interest (cardiology).

      First off, in response to another poster in this thread, the choice of controls is correct. In case control
  • The article offers no details, so it's impossible to evaluate this work meaningfully. Based on the limited details provided, it would be really easy for anyone with even the least background in research or statistics to think up a zillion reasons to be skeptical. But research almost always sound simplistic and inept when it's subject to simplistic and inept reporting. This brief report reads like the confused ramblings of someone who's overheard a conversation in an elevator.

    Fortunately, a kind Slashdot
  • Tagging comments (Score:2, Informative)

    by saikatguha266 (688325)
    Please use the !word to negate a tag.

    While off-topic from the article perspective, I think this comment has some merit given that at the time of this comment, the tags for this article include 'gay', 'straight', 'bi'.

    I suspect the 'straight' is to offset the 'gay' tag which appeared on all April 1 articles, and overflowed into April 2 articles. The system, I don't believe, knows that 'straight' is opposite of 'gay'. It does however know that '!gay' is opposite of 'gay', and will (likely) drop the tag that p
  • I don't know if someone knows these flashing stickers [greenpearle.com] indicating an incoming phonecall? I've tried some, and they only work -with the phones I tried- at the back of the phone. The front (where you hold it against your head) doesn't seem to be giving off a signal strong enough to make the stickers flash.

    So I suspect there is a difference in what type of cellphone (external antenna, generation of cellphone, brand...) which increases or decreases the amount of radiation taken.

  • That study is non-sensical!

    They had people with cancer and they asked whether they were using/had been using a mobile phone. What a stupid question!. Pretty much everybody in Europe has a mobile phone since 2000: children (and I mean 7 y-o children!), adults and old people (>80 y-o). Mobile telephony has a penetration rate about 90% in Europe!

    They may have asked if they were drinking *water* as well, and the conclusion of the study would have been exactly the same.
    • They had people with cancer and they asked whether they were using/had been using a mobile phone.

      Also they didn't survey mobile phone users who have not caught cancer, so they don't have a control. Part of the problem is that the cause of cancer is almost always unknown. They appear are not to be taking the unknowns into account.

  • It's important to realise that the British study claiming no cancer risk was funded by a consortium made up of mobile phone operators and cellphone manufacturers.

    • "The way to get the risk down is to use hands-free," he told Reuters.

      On another note, I'm sure some people will post the "what are we supposed to do stop using cellphones completely" strawman ... this suggestion FTA should counter that.

  • Assuming development won't stop for the next 10 years, a lot will be different. Other mobile phones using new technology that mostlikely will have different effects. And mostlikely better ways to treat cancer (or even "cure" it).

    But just to be safe I'll wrap my phone in tinfoil, that should stop it right?
  • Flawed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtieburn (906792) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @08:40AM (#15045207)
    I read the PDF detailing the study and there are a couple of gaping holes in this whole thing.

    First off, despite multiple studies done that prove no correlation between brain tumours and mobile phones this claims to have found something. Now I guess other factors may have come in to those other studies some bias etc. However, this article details an initial study that also showed _no_ connection. It was only after they altered the questionaires and retested people that they found something. Whats more, they then did no further alteration to the questions and simply ran with the same test only on a bigger scale.

    There may be a detailed explanation of why that occured but with currently released information weve no idea how many times they were willing to alter the questions to get the answers they wanted, and no explanation of which questions were altered or why. What adds to the suspicion is the fact that the only reason the first test was thrown out was 'short latency' and 'low numbers' of people. Neither of which affect the questionaire.

    So what we have is a group of people who rely on getting a result for there funding. (No differently to the previous studies.) After they got no real results from a first test, altered it in a way that appeared to have no bearing on that initial test. They then found they got results... Doesnt really inspire any confidence in there impartial testing.

    Secondly, something others have pointed out already, asking a bunch of people with tumours when they started using mobile phones and then roughly getting rid of other factors that could have caused them based on a questionaire... Not a great method of working this out.

    Whatever you thought of the study seen on the BBC site it raised a very good point about something that would cause a bias. 'reporting from brain tumour sufferers who knew what side of the head their tumours were on.' etc. This test doesnt even begin to try clamp down on these kinds of bias. Even if this test was entirely fair, the results are far from dramatic. With excessive use it shows only a relatively small increase in cases. With a potential for people to be increasingly suspicious of there mobiles the more they use them this could easily be put down to false assumptions.

    As far as im concerned this study is severly flawed. The other studies are also flawed, to a degree, but until someone actually has decent evidence that these things are causing damage then its not going to stop the millions of people who use them. I certainly wouldnt say mobile phones are safe but there is still little to no evidence suggesting they harm us. (and arguably more evidence to suggest that they dont.) The presure is definately on those who have to prove a link.
  • Why are people with brain tumors always on the phone..
  • There's lots of ways this study could be all wet:
    • Maybe cell phone users are of a particular demographic that is more prone to cancer:
    • For example, they're in a certain age group:: people under age X are less prone to brain cancer, so you automatically see a lot more of it in people with cell phones (above age XX).
    • Maybe it's tied to their economic group-- poor people are less likely to go to a doctor, so they're more likely to have a poor outcome if they do get cancer.
    • Or maybe healthy poeple say they'r
  • ...sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes!
  • At $0.05:minute, we're spending only $6000 on airtime that we could be spending on chemotherapy!
  • Researchers at the Swedish National Institute for Working Life said they looked at the mobile phone use of 905 people between the age of 20 and 80 who had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and found a link.

    So instead of taking an honest sample of the population and waiting five, ten, or fifteen years to see who developed brain tumors, they skipped straight to the conclusion they wanted.

    "A total 85 of these 905 cases were so-called high users of mobile phones, that is they began early to use mobile
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @12:49PM (#15045948) Homepage Journal
    Those aren't "brain tumors" - not the familiar cancerous growths. They're neural phone links our brains are growing to directly interface the phones. Rather than shielding radiation or moving phones away from our heads, we should be investing in more and faster growths. Because this development is the fastest way to move phones inside the head, where annoying ringtones and semversations don't bother bystanders.
  • 2000 hours over 10 years is 200h:y, or 33 minutes per day. That's not so heavy use among the people I know.

    But what about Bluetooth? People wear headsets inserted into their skulls, along a canal closer to the brain, against a transparent auditory nerve hole. All day long. It's a different frequency, and different power level than cellphones. There isn't 10 years of data yet. But why should we wait?

    Swedes already know the damage Bluetooth can cause in the name of bringing everyone together. Let's see the of [utk.edu]
  • Long term studies on this topic are pretty useless. In the past 10 years, the cell phone business has changed drastically.

    Remember bag phones and the motorola brick phone? Those suckers had a full 3-watt transmitter. Due to cell tower density, you can be sure those things were broadcasting at a full 3-watts most of the time. They also broadcast around 800-900 MHz.

    Today's phones still broadcast at around 800-900 MHz, as well as the 1800-1900 Mhz frequencies. They also use alot less power, around .6 watt

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