man speaking on cell phone cellular 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fred Prouse)
LONDON - Using a mobile phone might increase the risk of developing
certain types of brain tumors and consumers should consider ways of
reducing their exposure, World Health Organization (WHO) cancer experts
said on Tuesday.
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A working group of 31 scientists from 14
countries meeting at the WHO's International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC) said a review of all the available scientific evidence
suggested cell phone use should be classified as "possibly
classification, which puts mobile phone use in the same broad IARC
cancer risk category as lead, chloroform and coffee, could spur the
United Nations health body to look again at its guidelines on mobile
phones, the scientists said.
But more lengthy and detailed research is needed before a more definitive answer on any link can be given.
The WHO had previously said there was no established evidence for a link between cell phone use and cancer.
reviewing essentially all the evidence that is relevant ... the working
group classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly
carcinogenic to humans," Jonathan Samet, chair of the IARC group, said
in a telebriefing.
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He said some evidence suggested a link between an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain cancer, and mobile phone use.
use has risen hugely since they were introduced in the early 1980s,
with 5 billion in use today. And since phones have become such an key
part of daily life -- used by many for Web surfing as well as talking --
industry experts say a health threat will not stop people using them.
concerned consumers might opt to buy more accessories such as headsets
to reduce the risks, Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton said.
"It's going to take some compelling argument to change behavior," he said.
WHO's position has been keenly awaited by mobile phone companies and by
campaign groups who have raised concerns about whether cell phones
might be harmful to health.
Industry groups immediately sought to
play down the decision, stressing the "possibly carcinogenic" category
also includes substances such as pickled vegetables and coffee.
IARC classification does not mean that cell phones cause cancer," said
John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the United States-based
wireless association CTIA.
He noted the IARC working group did
not conduct any new research, but reviewed published studies, and said
other regulatory bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration have
stated that "the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell
phones with any health problems."
John Cooke, executive director
of the British-based Mobile Operators Association, said IARC had only
found the possibility of a hazard.
"Whether or not this represents a risk requires further scientific investigation," he said in a statement.'It's important to reduce exposure'
IARC remarks follow a study published last year that looked at almost
13,000 cell phone users over 10 years and found no clear answer on
whether the mobile devices cause brain tumors.
studies have also failed to establish any clear cancer link, but a US
study in February found that using a mobile phone can change brain cell
IARC director Christopher Wild said it was important
that more research be conducted, particularly into long-term and heavy
use of mobile phones.
"Pending the availability of such
information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce
exposure such as hands-free devices or texting," he said.
Sperrin, director of medical physics and clinical engineering at
Britain's Royal Berkshire Hospital, said he thought the IARC move was
appropriate because it reflected the "anecdotal evidence that cancers
may be associated with phone usage." But he added: "It is vitally
important to fully understand that there is no definitive correlation."
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