01 June 2011

Cut your cellphone cancer risk

Cell phone users may be at increased risk from brain cancer and should take steps to reduce exposure.


News flash: Mobile phone users may be at increased risk from brain cancer and should take steps to reduce exposure.

This is the latest statement from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). IARC’s experts, who advise the World Health Organisation on cancer research and are top minds on the subject, have spent the last week in a huddle poring over all the evidence on cell phones and cancer. Theirs is advice to take seriously.

And it’s really not that hard. Here’s how:

  • Spend as little time talking on your cell as is practically possible. Make more calls from your land line, or send text messages instead of making calls.
  • Increase the distance between yourself and your cell phone. Use a hands-free set with an earpiece and speakerphone and carry the phone away from your body. Even holding a handset marginally further away from your head helps: the radiation levels drop off very quickly with distance.
  • Use the other ear sometimes! (I can't say I've seen this tip recommended by any medical authority, but some studies on glioma – the kind of brain tumour most strongly suspected of being linked to cell phone use – show that it occurs more often on the right side of the head, which is of course where most of us hold our cell phones.)
  • Get into the habit of simply turning your cell off more often. 
  • Don’t sleep with a cell phone. If you must, don’t have it right beside your pillow – move it to your bedside table.
  • Don't use your cell when only a few bars show – this means the radiation will be greater in order to get the signal through.
  • If you have kids, impress upon them the importance of keeping cell calls for crucial use only; lay down the law on this if necessary. Children are considered to be particularly vulnerable to cell phone radiation, as their skulls are thinner, their brains developing, and because they will be using these phones over many more years than this generation of adults will. Some medical experts suggest that, except for emergencies, kids under 12 should not use cell phones at all.
  • Don't waste money on devices advertised to act as cell phone radiation shields. They haven't been shown to be effective, and will likely only interfere with reception.

Oh, and…

Make a serious decision to never use your cell while driving: apart from radiation concerns, the biggest proven danger for cell phone users who dial and drive is still a road accident.

A note on cell phone masts / base stations and aerials: The lastest thinking here is that the amount of radiation we’re exposed to from these is negligible and unlikely to be linked to negative health impacts. Rather focus your concern on keeping that cell phone at a safe distance.

In addition to brain cancer, some recent studies have linked cell phone radiation to bone thinning and lowered male fertility. Studies have also shown that blood flow and brain cell activity change in the area closest to where the cell phone is held. 

– Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, June 2011


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