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International panel of experts say cellphones may cause cancer

May 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The debate over whether cellphones can cause cancer heated up Tuesday. The World Health Organization said some phones are as dangerous as lead and engine exhaust.

The issue is that cellphones emit radio frequency electromagnetic energy. The FCC and FDA say they are safe, but the new international review of all the data suggests users should be cautious.

We live with our cellphones. Some of us are attached. But now the cancer research from the World Health Organization is classifying them as a "2B" health risk -- a possible cause of brain cancer.

"It takes decades of exposure to an environmental toxin to really see the consequences of the toxin causing cancer," said Dr. Keith Black, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Thirteen scientists from 14 countries reviewed the existing data to make this classification. Longtime safety cellphone advocate neurosurgeon Keith Black says this reminds us to use our phones cautiously.

"Limit the amount of time you have it next to your ear, to your brain," said Black. "If you do have it try to keep it at least an inch away from your skull."

There are 5 billion cellphone users around the world.

In a statement, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry said, "This IARC classification does not mean cellphones cause cancer ... the IARC working group did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies."

Black agrees that current studies are not conclusive, but he believes the data are trending toward an association.

"We can't tell you currently that cellphones are either safe or not safe but I think it's very reasonable to know, from what we understand currently, we cannot tell you that using cellphones are going to be safe," Black said.

So will people change the way they use their phones? It's a convenience we've been used to for a long time.

Black prefers earbuds or earphones. Or if you don't have any of those, keep the phone an inch away from your face or use a loudspeaker.


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