Just recently, a study finished up that was meant to help people decide whether or not cell phones can cause cancer.
The study, which does use rats and mice, is not finished. However, advocates are pushing for more research after they found out the results and the U.S. National Toxicology Program decided to release some results early.
The findings have reawakened the debate that cell phone use might just cause cancer. When male rats were exposed to constant, heavy doses of cell phone radiation, they developed brain and heart tumors. Oddly enough, the female rats didn't and even odder than that, the rats that developed the tumors lived longer than those not exposed to radiation.
The National Institutes of Health are still analyzing the results, but John Bucher, the associate director of the National Toxicology Program said: "We felt it was important to get that word out."
What we don't know is how cell phones impact humans or whether or not using a headset of keeping them away from your skin would make a difference.
Dr. Otis Brawley, who is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for the American Cancer Society, said that we do need to change how people think about cell phones and the relationship they have with cancer. "The findings are unexpected; we wouldn't reasonably expect non-ionizing radiation to cause these tumors," he said. "This is a striking example of why serious study is so important in evaluating cancer risk. It's interesting to note that early studies on the link between lung cancer and smoking had similar resistance since theoretical arguments at the time suggested that there could not be a link."
Brain tumors are extremely rare. About 23,770 malignant tumors of the brain or on the spinal cord will be diagnosed this year, and there hasn't been an increase since the 1990s - which means that there is no increase due to cell phone usage.
"It is very reassuring in fact that there has been no dramatic increase. It may well be that current cell phone use is safe," Bucher said. Bucher also mentioned that he still uses cell phones.
"The occurrences of two tumor types in male Harlan Sprague Dawley rats exposed to RFR (radio frequency radiation), malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart, were considered of particular interest, and are the subject of this report," the team writes in its report. "These findings appear to support the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conclusions regarding the possible carcinogenic potential of RFR."
Cell phones are used by billions of people, including 92% of American adults own a cell phone.
The study used both GSM and CDMA radio systems, the two systems used by most cell phone providers. They directed the signals into the cages of pregnant rats, keeping the signals focused on the rat pups for ten minutes, gave them a ten-minute break, and then put it on again for nine hours each day for two years.
Other rats were raised nearby without any exposure to the radiation.
There were no effects on the rats other than those exposed to the radiation were slightly lighter. Those exposed to radiation lived slightly longer than the control rats. There was also evidence that there pre-cancerous changes in the brain cells.
"Cardiac schwannomas (heart tumors) were observed in male rats in all exposed groups of both GSM- and CDMA-modulated RFR, while none were observed in controls," the team added. "No biologically significant effects were observed in the brain or heart of female rats," they said.
The findings might be strong enough to conclude that radiation exposure can cause tumors in males.
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The full report is due out next year.