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May 31st, 2011
02:00 PM ET

WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk

(CNN) - Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

Before its announcement Tuesday, WHO had assured consumers that no adverse health effects had been established.

A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, made the decision after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

What that means is they found some evidence of increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for mobile phone users, but have not been able to draw conclusions for other types of cancers

"The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences," said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The type of radiation coming out of a cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an X-ray, but more like a very low-powered microwave oven.

"What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain," Black said. "So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones."

Wireless industry responded to Tuesday's announcement saying it "does not mean cell phones cause cancer." CTIA-The Wireless Association added that WHO researchers "did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies."

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  1. Steve Roberts

    Why can't phone cases be lead shielded on the side towards the body to avoid cooking our organs. Blue tooth connections can take care of most of the brain issues if used. I think the more serious problem associated with cellphones is deafness caused by radiation of the auditory nerves. The nerve from the ear into the brain can be damaged with a single use of a phone, and certainly can become a problem for long term users. I used cell phones since they first came out as a police officer. We also used FM transmitter portable radios against our ears before getting cellphones. I lost all hearing in my right ear, called Sudden Hearing Loss. SHL. This happened overnight two years ago. Went to bed hearing fine and woke up totally deaf in the right ear. I am sure it is related to the long term use of radio devices. There is no cure.

    June 1, 2011 at 12:02 am |