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Pair of health studies fail to clear up cellphone-cancer debate

Two newly publicized health studies on mobile phone and base station radiation have produced mixed results, likely keeping alive the long-running scientific debate over whether handsets and cell site transmissions can cause cancer and other illnesses.
Japanese mobile-phone operators NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Mobile Corp. said an industry-funded laboratory study concluded radio frequency radiation from cellphone base stations do not cause damage to human cells, according to a DoCoMo press release.
“In an interim report on April 26, 2005, the companies announced they had found no effects on cell proliferation, gene expression profile, or DNA single-strand breaks. Now they have found there are no genetic alterations or protein functions that could be associated with cell transformation or programmed cell death (apoptosis). Based on these findings, the operators have concluded that they could not find adverse health effects from radio waves from mobile phone base stations,” DoCoMo stated.
DoCoMo said Mitsubishi Chemical Safety Institute Ltd., a specialized research institution, conducted the experiments on behalf of the mobile phone carriers, with the latest results of the peer-reviewed data due for publication in the Bioelectromagnetics Journal.
Meantime, a European multi-nation epidemiology study published in the International Journal of Cancer failed to identify a general link between mobile phone use and the risk of glioma. At the same time, researchers discovered a nearly 40-percent increased tumor risk for a class of long-term subscribers. The scientists found an elevated risk for those who used mobile phones for more than 10 years and whose gliomas were on the same side of the head where they hold their cellphones.
“Although our results overall do not indicate an increased risk of glioma in relation to mobile phone sue, the possible risk in the most heavily exposed part of the brain with long-term use needs to be explored further before firm conclusions can be drawn,” said researchers associated with the 13-country Interphone research program. Countries participating in the project include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Interphone researchers previously found evidence that long-term cellphone exposure can cause another type of benign cancer known as acoustic neuroma. Gliomas are considered far more dangerous.
The Food and Drug Administration’s top cellphone radiation expert said the latest Interphone results should be interpreted with care.
“Our staff epidemiologists and statisticians have not had sufficient time to read and analyze this paper as of now. However, in the abstract to this paper, the authors express caution about their finding and state that it is of ‘borderline statistical significance’ and that this finding ‘needs to be explored further before firm conclusions can be drawn.’ We agree with those caveats and await the completion and analysis of the entire Interphone studies,” said the FDA’s Howard Cyr.
Mobile phone carriers and vendors continue to face wireless health litigation in the United States, though the number of suits against the wireless industry has decreased in recent years. No wireless operator or manufacturer has been found liable for making a defective product or personal injury since cellular phones came on the scene in the U.S. more than two decades ago.

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