Now cell phones are linked to eye cancer
GMT Jan 18, 2001, 11:30 AM | ET Jan 18, 2001, 06:30 AM | PT Jan 18, 2001,
Düsseldorf - A report released this week claims to have found a link between
a rare form of eye cancer and the use of cell phones. The study - the latest
in a string of research on such health risks - is the first to link wireless
devices with eye cancer. Critics claim the findings are based on flawed
research techniques and the report's authors concede that the issue needs
Mobile-phone users and people living close to base-station transceivers are
becoming increasingly concerned that radiation from wireless technology
could cause brain tumors. Although 500 million people worldwide have mobile
phones, there is, as yet, no irrefutable medical evidence that they cause
The German study, published in the current issue of Epidemiology, is part of
a larger research program on rare cancers. Scientists at the Essen
University Clinic examined 118 patients with uveal melanoma - a relatively
rare form of eye cancer, with a rate of occurrence of only one new case per
year in 100,000 people - about their cell phone usage and exposure to other
equipment deploying radio waves. They compared the results with a control
group of 475 healthy individuals. Researchers found that heavy users of
mobiles are 3.3 times more likely to develop the disease.
However, Andreas Stang, one of the authors, said researchers could not rule
out the possibility that the higher cancer among the surveyed group may have
other causes. For one, the study did not measure the radiation levels to
which patients were exposed, Stang said.
That, claims Michael Foerster of Berlin's Free University, is a significant
flaw. Without measuring how much radiation the examined patients had "such
results are bio-statistical garbage", he said.
Peter Inskip, author of the recent study by the US National Cancer
Institute, claims the study did not consider other possible causes for eye
cancer, such as ultraviolet radiation. Inskip referred to the authors'
speculation about possible eye cancer causes as "a bit premature", given the
limitations of the study.
Scientists continue to disagree over a link between cancer and cell-phone
usage. Studies, many funded by the wireless technology, have delivered
conflicting results. Two reports, published by the Journal of the American
Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine in December,
claim a link is unlikely, but nevertheless call for continued research.
While agreeing that further research is needed, Stang said studies on the
possible health consequences of cell phones should have accompanied the new
technology from the very start.
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