Senator Ted Kennedy’s diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor is, once again, stirring debate over the safety of cell phones. Kennedy’s brain tumor, called a glioma, is the type critics have associated for years with the use of cell phones.
Prominent neurosurgeons have stated they do not use cell phones held next to their ears. “I use it on the speaker-phone mode,” said Dr. Vini Khurana, a prominent researcher and an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University. “I do not hold it to my ear.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital admitted that, he too, used an earpiece.
CTIA – the Wireless Association and the FDA both say that studies show cell phones are not a health risk. Other experts disagree. They point to research that indicates a link between cell phones and three types of tumors: glioma (the type Senator Kennedy has); cancer of a salivary gland near the ear called the parotid; and acoustic neuroma, which is a tumor found near the ear. An Israeli study published last year found a 58 percent increase in risk for parotid tumors among people who relied heavily on their cell phones. And a Swedish study found the risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma doubled after ten years of heavy use.
Since cell phones are relatively new, there hasn’t been a chance for long-term studies that will settle the question of whether there is truly a link between cell phone use and brain tumors. Some critics express particular concern for children who begin using cell phones as kids and continue throughout their lives. “More and more kids are using cell phones,” said Dr. Paul Rosch, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College. “They may be much more affected. Their brains are growing rapidly and their skulls are thinner.”
Dr. Khurana admits that cell phones are convenient and can save lives in an emergency, but he says that “there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumors,” adding that malignant brain tumors are “a life-ending diagnosis.
“It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking,” he said.
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