What editorial writers are saying about a possible link between cell phones and cancer

A World Health Organization panel, citing previous studies, called cell phones "possibly carcinogenic."

Posted June 20, 2011.

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Editorial writers say the assertion doesn't make it clear to consumers what they should do about their own mobile phone use, and they differ as to whether people should worry.

Do cell phones cause cancer?

The [WHO's] International Agency for Research on Cancer, basing its conclusions on a review of previous studies, classified cell phones as "possibly carcinogenic," the kind of ridiculously imprecise conclusion that means precisely nothing. ... Coffee and pickles have led scientists to similarly conflicting conclusions about their safety. Even so, have many people stopped drinking coffee because it's "possibly carcinogenic?" Or eating pickles? The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.), June 5

Cell phone dangers

A World Health Organization panel's finding that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic" provides a sliver of scientific credence to what up to now has been the decidedly unscientific fear that the phones can cause cancer. Well, OK, but this is still a very low-level alert. The conclusion is based on epidemiological data finding greater prevalence of a rare brain tumor among heavy cell phone users. ... Still, the recommendation of some doctors that parents restrict cell phone use by small children, whose brains are still developing, seems sound. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), June 1

Uncertainty on cell phone peril? Get used to it

Scientists themselves aren't sure of the risk. So they're doing what the best of them do under the circumstances: calling attention to what they do know, and telling cell phone users to use their own judgment from the available science -- most of which indicates that if there is a risk, it's relatively small. Meanwhile, scientists continue to review data, consider new hypotheses and test them as rigorously as possible. We're lucky that they do. Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.), June 5

A ringtone, not an alarm

There's more to be learned, but WHO has given cell phone dangers a mild categorization. Pending further study, the biggest risk associated with cell phones will continue to be driving while using one. The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.), June 4

Don't overreact on cell phones

If the WHO statement has made you skittish, there are a few options for reducing cell phone risk. You can stop or minimize your cell phone usage. You also can lower risk by using an earpiece or using your cell phone as a speaker phone. But your priorities would be sorely misplaced if you are ignoring more proven risks in your everyday life. Here's a list of better ways to lower your health risk: Stop smoking, wear your seat belt, eat healthy, exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Journal Star (Lincoln, Neb.), June 3

Playing it safe may be the way to go with cell phones

Some will find it hard to ignore a United Nations organization's assertion that holding a cell phone to your ear for an average of 30 minutes a day for 10 years will lead to a 40% increase in your risk of a form of cancer called glioma. Others will note that glioma is a rare form of cancer, and rare plus 40% is still rare. It's hard for nonscientists to know what to think. ... Playing it safe ... seems easy enough without giving up the convenience of a cell phone. Use the speaker-phone setting, or wired earplugs or a Bluetooth earpiece. Or make like a teenager and communicate with your thumbs via text messages. Los Angeles Daily News, June 3

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