One Call Away.. From Cancer

by Brittany Mortera on March 27, 2014

Morning. Wake up to the alarm of your cell phone. Check text messages, Twitter, and Facebook. Get ready for the day. Headphones in, start playing music and head out to the T. Constantly check for new texts, calls, tweets and notifications every 2 minutes. Repeat the process throughout the day until night. Set an alarm for the next morning. Repeat.

As of 2014, cellphones are close to being humanity’s oxygen counterpart, in the social context. It is uncommon to see one without a cellphone in hand. They contain essential everyday sources for convenience in communication, web browsing, music, a camera dual-function and a cure for boredom. Not only that, they’ve saved countless lives in emergency situations. Even 5-year-olds are sporting the newest iPhones! With the amazing technological advances, the modern-day mobile phones’ functionality options are endless. If cellphones are taking over the world, should we be worried? Yes.

IPhone 4

Cellphones emit a type of radiation called non-ionizing, which mirrors the radiation strength of a low-powered microwave oven. Although non-ionizing seems to be harmless because of the small amounts released, recent studies have brought to light the possibility of the radiation being carcinogenic to humans. There’s some evidence of an increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer diagnoses for mobile phone users. The Federal Communications Commission has taken note of its effects and set a guideline that limits close proximities of the device to the body while making calls. Adverse consequences include a growing list of cancer and tumor developments as previously mentioned. Cognitive memory function problems are developing as well since the temporal lobe, the memory domain of the brain, is where cell phones are usually held. Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at LA’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, commented, “The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences.” How long will it be until the effects of constant cellphone usage take a severe toll on the population’s health?

The World Health Organization has confirmed that the radiation could possibly cause cancer and lists mobile phone use in the “carcinogenic hazard” category alongside lead, engine exhaust and chloroform. Despite its statement, WHO researchers haven’t conducted any new findings and are just reviewing published studies. With the lack of incentives to find new information regarding long-term exposure to radiation from mobile phones, we may be digging ourselves into a hole. The European Environmental Agency, who is advocating for more research, claimed that cell phones may unknowingly have large public health risks equivalent to that of smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline!

What research has been done specifically? A 2010 study showed that participants who used a cell phone for 10 or more years had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. This depicts a correlation between cell phones and cancer. Another study conducted by the National Institute of Health revealed an emission of radiation after 50 minutes of phone usage, which increased the activity in brain cells; however, the reasoning behind the brain stimulation is still unknown. The majority of these findings are still uncomfortably open ended.

There are a few companies taking incentive and launching studies that will have results in the later decades. In March of 2010, a European company launched a long-term study known as COSMOS that is currently studying about 290,000 cell phone users 18 years or older and will follow them for 20 to 30 years. In this study, it is their hope to depict a possible pattern in health effects. Mobi-Kids, a case-control study, also is in the works that include 2000 people aged 10-24 years old who have newly diagnosed brain tumors and 4000 healthy people who are in the same age range. Their aim is to learn about the risk factors for associated childhood brain tumors. Lastly, the NIEHS, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, are studying the effects of radiation on rodents. But are these studies enough?

There is an alarming need for more research. Conducting these experiments is a lengthy process that takes money, time, and design credentials from various research committees, which are very limited and hard to get right away. Therefore, the only thing we can proactively do is be more aware of our personal usage. Maybe we should step away from technology and only use cell phones in urgent situations. Read a book, enjoy the fresh air, and talk to people face-to-face as opposed to texting or calling. People have gone through lifetimes without cell phones, so a little separation won’t kill us. As mentioned earlier, excessive cell phone usage could have a strong adversity on our generation today as well as the generations in the future. How will we know if a seemingly harmless device could end up killing us? It’s your call.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joseph Cho March 28, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I think Brittany brings up important points regarding cell phone use. I definitely didn’t consider the negative impacts of cellphone use otherwise from impaired hearing. Whats especially alarming to me is WHO’s classification of mobile phones as a “carcinogenic hazard”. Considering how many people use cellphones (I heard somewhere more people have phones then access to water) the potential side effects of cellphone use isn’t something that should be brushed aside!


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