NBC Today Show: Cell Phones May Not Be Harmful?

Today Show: Do cell phones cause brain cancer?Apr 26, 2011 – NBC’s Today Show recently aired a spot that called attention to the cell phone debate over the possibility that cell phone use may cause cancer.
Meredith Vieira interviewed Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Columbia University Medical Center and author of The Emperor of All Maladies, together with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s Chief Medical Editor.
As a result of this interview, it seems the doctors’ positions are that current evidence of a link to cancer is weak and until something conclusive comes in, put the cell phone thing to rest!
Doctors, will we be risking our health waiting for something conclusive?
At the time of the broadcast, Dr. Mukherjee was preparing for the release of his NY Times article attempting to lay rest that debate, Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?

During the course of the interview Dr. Mukherjee said his article is based on his re-examining old and current studies that have been done. However, he said, there are two major definitive studies still pending.
One, as he explained to Meredith, is from the National Toxicology Institute here, that is an animal study that exposes animals to very long periods of radiation of the kinds that are needed by cell phones.
The second study is from Europe which takes 250,000 users and follows them forward in time so there’s no bias from memory. Memory, as he explained in the interview, is very unreliable when current studies have used it has a basis for data, because users tend to over or under estimate their actual cell phone usage.
But still, without the data from these two major definitive pending studies, Dr. Mukherjee said, “But as of now the evidence that moderate cell phone use has any link to brain cancer is very weak.”
He explained to Meredith that of the recent study where the brain showed increased brain glucose activity immediately next to where the antenna would rest on their head… the brain uses glucose as fuel, so when a telephone users is exposed to cell phone activity, some parts of the brain start metabolizing or using glucose more as fuel.

He admits ‘we’ don’t know the implications of this. But he says it turns out that when we read a newspaper brain glucose activity goes up and surely we don’t think that reading a newspaper causes cancer.  When you see a film your brain glucose activity goes up, so the activity shows that there is some activity registering in the brain with cell phone use,  but links to cancer is very weak.

Dr. Snyderman interjected, “I think it’s one of those classic examples when conventional wisdom is “oh, if you put an antenna next to your head, therefore you must be bringing in some kind of harmful rays and you’re going to cook your brain and get a tumor.  But it’s one of those times to when conventional wisdom does not mean that its science.  And the science over and over and over again has not shown a link.”
Dr. Snyderman also explained that ionizing versus non-ionizing radiation makes a difference. She said the kind of radiation that may harm you is the ionizing kind that you get when you have too many x-rays.
But the non-ionizing type is like walking by your microwave, a lightbulb, a cell phone.  There is no evidence that it harms you.  These products have been out for a long period of time.  A reminder, we get radiation from everywhere, radon in the soil, the sunshine.  So we are bombarded with little bits.  Little bits over time doesn’t seem to be a concern.
It’s these blasts of radiation that is costing so much concern such as what has happened in Japan .  Dr. Snyderman said “I think we have to at least for now, until something conclusive comes in, put the cell phone thing to rest.”

ANewDayANewMe feels uncomfortable with that statement.  How many lives were lost to asbestos and lead poisoning until the conclusive  results said asbestos and lead exposure are harmful to your health.  We will take Dr. Oz’s suggestions on the cautious use of cell phones!

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