Facebook Pixel

WHO finds Wireless Cell Phones ‘Possibly’ Cause Cancer

Rate This
Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement on May 30, 2011 that it has reclassified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields such as those used in cell phones as “possibly cancer-causing to humans.” WHO based its reclassification on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer that is associated with wireless phone use.

A working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries critically evaluated hundreds of existing scientific articles that included exposure data, the studies of cancer in humans, the studies of cancer in experimental animals, and the mechanistic and other relevant data.

The group’s Chairman, Dr. Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, said it was determined there is not enough long-term evidence to link cancer and cell phone use directly, but there is enough information to issue an alert.

"The evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk," he said.

While the group did not quantify the risk, one study of past cell phone use—up to the year 2004—showed a 40 percent increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users; those who reported using their cell phones on average 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period.

According to the GLOBOCAN Project, a 2008 record of cancer incidence and mortality worldwide, 237,913 new cases of brain cancer of all types were reported. Of those, two-thirds were gliomas. The number of wireless phone subscriptions is estimated at 5 billion globally.

A 2B Classification puts wireless phones in the same hazard category as chloroform, engine exhaust and coffee. In all, there are 266 hazard agents in the 2B group.

The group acknowledged the possibility that mobile phone exposures might induce long‐term health effects, in particular an increased risk for cancer. This has relevance for public health, particularly for users of wireless phones, as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.

In addition to glioma, the group found evidence to suspect cell phone use could be linked to acoustic neuroma, a relatively rare, slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. An acoustic neuroma is benign, which means it does not spread to other parts of the body or invade the tissue around it. However, it can damage several important nerves as it grows.

A concise report summarizing the main conclusions of the IARC Working Group and evaluations of the carcinogenic hazard from mobile phone will be published online in the July 1, 2011 issue scientific journal, The Lancet Oncology.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.

Sources: WHO Highlights, May 2011,” Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic,” Press Release.

IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Online: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/index.php

The GLOBOCAN Project, IARC Website: http://globocan.iarc.fr/
The Lancet Online:

Reviewed June 2, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.