France Issues Cell Phone Warning in Face of Possible Cancer Risk

The French government is warning consumers to avoid “excessive” cell phone use because of concerns that mobile phone use could increase the risk of some <"">cancers.  The French Ministry of Health, Youth and Sports said in a statement that it was particularly concerned that children who use cell phones face the most danger from the devices.

The cell phone – cancer link is inconclusive.  However, several studies have found intriguing evidence that excessive mobile phone use increases the risk for some types of cancer.  In December, the “American Journal of Epidemiology” published an Israeli study that looked at 402 adults with benign parotid gland tumors and 58 others who had malignant tumors of the parotid gland diagnosed in Israel from 2001-2003.  The parotid gland is the largest salivary gland in the mouth.   According to the researchers, people who spent more than 22 hours a month on their cell phones where 50-percent more likely to develop cancer of the parotid gland than those who used the phones less often. The risk of developing a parotid gland tumor was even higher in people who generally used their cell phones on the same ear most of the time, and did not use a hands-free device.

Other studies have found a correlation between frequent cell phone use and a variety of tumors. Two studies, one in England and another in Germany, found an increased risk of glioma – an often deadly type of brain cancer – in people who had used cell phones for more than 10 years. The German study compared a group of 749 brain tumor patients with 1,494 similar people who did not use cell phones, and found that the risk of gliomas was double in those who had used cell phones for at least a decade. British scientists compared 996 brain tumor patients with 1,716 healthy people who did not use cell phones, and found the risk of brain cancer increased by 20% in long term users. Like the Israeli study, the British researchers found a higher risk of tumors on the side of the head where cell phone users most often held their phones.  A third study in Sweden in 2004 found that frequent cell phone users ran a higher risk of developing acoustic neuroma – a noncancerous brain tumor. This study found that people who used analog cell phones starting 15 years before diagnosis developed acoustic neuroma at four times the normal rate.

All of the cell phone studies done so far have been small, but their results are troubling.   In issuing its cell phone warning, the French ministry said in a statement that “as the hypothesis of a risk cannot be entirely excluded, precaution is justified.” It recommended using mobile phones in moderation, especially among children, and gave advice on how users could reduce their exposure to any possible risk. “One should use a mobile phone with good judgment, avoid calling when reception is poor, or during high-speed travel, and finally, keep the telephone away from sensitive areas of the body by using a hands-free kit,” the ministry said.

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