The potential link between mobile telephones and brain cancer could be similar to the link between lung cancer and smoking -- something tobacco companies took 50 years to recognize, US scientists warn.
Scientists are currently split on the level of danger the biological effects of the magnetic field emitted by cellular telephones poses to humans. However, society "must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer where we ... waited until every 'i' was dotted and 't' was crossed before warnings were issued," said David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, in testimony before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform.
"Recalling the 70 years that it took to remove lead from paint and gasoline and the 50 years that it took to convincingly establish the link between smoking and lung cancer, I argue that we must learn from our past to do a better job of interpreting evidence of potential risk," said Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute -- one of the top US cancer research centers.
A brain tumor can take dozens of years to develop, the scientists said.
Carpenter and Herberman both told the committee the brain cancer risk from cell phone use is far greater for children than for adults.
Herberman held up a model for lawmakers showing how radiation from a cell phone penetrates far deeper into the brain of a five-year-old than that of an adult.
The committee were shown several European studies, particularly surveys from Scandinavia -- where the cell phone was first developed -- which show that the radiation emitted by cell phones have definite biological consequences.
A paper published this month by the Royal Society in London found that adolescents who start using cell phones before the age of 20 were five times more likely to develop brain cancer at the age of 29 than those who didn't use a cell phone.
Alarming new research from Sweden on the effects of radiation raises fears that today's youngsters face an epidemic of the disease in later life. The study contends that children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones. The findings are especially frightening considering how many American teens have their own handset. [read the article here ]
"Every child is using cell phones all of the time, and there are three billion cell phone users in the world," said Herberman.
He added that, like the messages that warn of health risks on cigarette packs, cell phones "need a precautionary message."
Roughly 60% of American teenagers own a cell phone, according to U.S. Cellular statistics, and spend an average of an hour a day talking on them—about the same amount of time the average teenager spends doing homework. And cell phone companies are now marketing to younger children with colorful kid-friendly phones and easy-to-use features. According to market research firm the Yankee Group, 54% of 8 to12 year olds will have cell phones within the next three years.
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