Sep 12

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer in Humans?

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A recent report by the World Health Organization states raises some concern about the possible link between cell phone use and cancer.

The report states specifically that: “The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”  Considering the ubiquitous nature of cell phones worldwide, perhaps reading the full body of the report should be of interest to many who are concerned about their exposure to potential cancer risks.

Cell Phones are Everywhere

It would not normally cross my mind to include a review of this subject on froogalism.com but the use of cell phones is just way too widespread to ignore a potential cancer danger linked to their use.  The same report goes on to say; “At the end of 2009, there were an estimated 4.6 billion subscription globally.”  4.6 BILLION?  Yes.  If the threat is real, we could have an unprecedentedly huge global cancer problem looming in the future.

Cigarette advertisement circa 1946

I simply can not help but be reminded about the plethora of ads in the 1940’s that showed healthy individuals doing healthy things like playing tennis or hiking and stopping to enjoy a cigarette.  I am also reminded about ads from the same era that showed doctors smoking.  There is now no question that cigarette smoking is linked with cancer.  Now I am not trying to make a link between cell phones and cigarettes – I want to be very clear about this.  What I am suggesting is that sometimes what we are told is good or okay for us does not always turn out that way in the long run.  Establishing causal links with cancer (or anything else) takes time.

The Problem of Proving Causality with Cancer

The problem, from a scientific perspective, is proving causality.   Just because things are linked does not means that one thing causes another thing.   This is one of the problems with cell phone research and its potential links to cancer.  Causal relationships takes time and dedicated research to uncover. I do not know of any long-term empirical studies that researched cell phone use (or even microwave use) and cancer before they were launched to the mass market.

Why do we Love Cell Phones so Much

Globally, we also seem to have a fascination with sci-fi stuff.    I was a regular viewer of Star Trek as a kid and always thought how awesomely cool the communicators that Captain Kirk, et al. used (as well as their phasers).  I remember very excitedly watching Crockett and Tubbs pull out their toaster-sized cell phones on Miami Vice moments before they caught the nasty drug dealers.  People love this stuff.  Perhaps it is no surprise that when cell phones first came out in the eighties that people wanted them badly (even though, at first, there might have been only one or two people that you you contact or that could contact you).  Now cell phones are everywhere.  I see countless ten-year-olds with them (good thing that I do see them too while I’m driving, because they often cross the street on their way to school while texting).

Socialization is a Changin’

I spent my lunch period today at a table of about twelve people.  Two of them did not even look up the entire time because they were so busy texting their friends.  Assuming just for a moment that we are taking a risk of getting cancer by spending time on our cell phones, is this development even desirable?  To at least some degree, our interaction with others has devolved to LMFAO and CUL8R.   A large amount of information that we send back and forth is trivial and meaningless.  Nonetheless, the desire for this type of snippetized interaction continues to grow by the second.  I wonder what the long-term effects of this type of rewiring of our minds will be?  There just doesn’t seem to be any context anymore. What will be the future of real and meaningful face-to-face communication and the skills associated with it?

What to Do about Cell Phones and the Cancer Risk

Firstly, be aware that the World Health Organization has reported cell phone use “as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”  Cell phones may possibly cause cancer.  Use your phones sensibly.  Do not use them more than you have to as a precautionary measure if you want to limit your risk of getting cancer.

Secondly, think twice about giving your child a cell phone.  The WHO report mentions nothing specifically about children.  I do know, however, that children’s skulls and brains are growing.  I don’t like the idea of a possible carcinogen mixing in with my daughter’s growing skull and brain.  It just doesn’t sound like a good mix to me.  Recognizing the fact that quite possibly ninety-nine percent of what your child is doing on their phone has nothing to do with their safety and that it could actually be a distraction to getting their school work done or them paying attention at school, perhaps it may be time to reconsider whether or not it is in their best interests to have one in the first place (or at least one with a hefty data package).

I Just Don’t Know (if Cell Phones cause Cancer)

The WHO states that cell phones might possibly cause cancer.  To prove or disprove the causality or cell phone use and cancer we will need to wait and accumulate data (in other words, wait for cell phone users to get cancer or not get cancer).  In the meantime, the 4.6 billion cell phone users worldwide are the guinea pigs in this long-term experiment that may eventually prove or disprove causality between cell phone use and cancer.  The overall benefits of using cell phones as we do are pretty dubious in my view.  Emergency calls to 911 or to the CAA or the AAA are probably a pretty small percentage of total calls worldwide in my estimation – the rest of it is trivial garbage (unless, of course, you are reading this article from a cell phone, in which case you are gathering information and an opinion within a thoughtful context).  You need to make your own decision.

For the record, I do own a cell phone.  I keep it in my car in case of roadside emergencies.

If you enjoyed reading this commentary, you can read more of my commentaries HERE.

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Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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1 comment

  1. Jane

    I agree that the use of cell phones should be limited. I use mine for emergencies only and intend to keep it that way.

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