Int'l Health Agency Links Cellphones to Brain Cancer

Dennis Faas's picture

An international health agency has reported it sees possible links between cellphone use and the onset of brain cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an important body in directing World Health Organization (WHO) and American Cancer Society policy.

The problem the IARC has with cellphones is the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by the devices.

Dr. Jonathan Samet, chair of preventive medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, said that for this reason the IARC considers cellphones "possibly carcinogenic to humans," adding that "We reached this conclusion based on a review of human evidence showing increased risk of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, in association with wireless phone use." (Source:

Just One of 240 "Carcinogenic" Agents

Cellphones are not necessarily unique in being classified as carcinogens by the IARC. The group has filed about 240 different agents under this heading, including various cleaning fluids and some pesticides.

Nevertheless, its findings, combined with the extent of cellphone use around the world, are concerning. After all, few of us come into contact with cleaning fluids and pesticides on a day-to-day basis, but a whole lot of people depend on their cellphones for everyday life.

As one might expect, the IARC says that children are particularly vulnerable because their skulls tend to be much thinner than those of grown men and women. In addition, someone that begins using a cellphone at a young age may be exposed to its effects over a much longer period than someone who begins using one later in life.

Texting Considered Safer Than Calling

It's not the IARC's business to outright discourage the use of products it considers carcinogenic, but the group did note that communicating by texts rather than voice calls is safer. "If you text, or use hands-free devices, you lower exposure by at least [10-fold]," said Dr. Kurt Straif. (Source:

It's expected the IARC's findings will be published in the July 2011 edition of The Lancet.

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