There are an estimated five billion cell phone users in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that cell phone radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. This conclusion was reached after an eight day meeting in Lyons, France by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is a work group of the WHO. The IARC classifies compounds as carcinogenic (group 1), probably carcinogenic (group 2A), possibly carcinogenic (group 2B), not classifiable (group 3), or probably not carcinogenic (group 4). The IARC consisted of an expert panel of 31 scientists from 14 different countries throughout the world. The classification of “possibly carcinogenic” was given to cell phone use due to the increase risk of developing two particular types of brain cancer known as glioma and acoustic neuroma. This conclusion does not mean that cell phone use causes cancer, but that there is sufficient evidence to suggest a possible increased risk. The IARC has stated that evidence is still accumulating and more research into this possible link needs to be done. Dr. Jonathan Samet, Chairman of the IARC, stated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.” Christopher Wild, the director of the IARC, stated, “Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting”. A recent large scale study on cell phone use and risk of brain cancer found no link between cell phone use and glioma or meningioma. A recent study headed by Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), showed that glucose metabolism in the brain was increased by proximity to the cell phone antenna. This study shows that the brain is effected physiologically by cell phone radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, but the exact long term sequelae are yet to be determined. The wireless cell phone industry has stated that the 2B classification by the IARC does not mean that cell phone use causes cancer, and that coffee and pickles are included in the 2B classification. This classification should shine a bright light for the general public onto the potential health risks of cell phone use. There are no definitive conclusions as of yet, but considering five billion people use cell phones throughout the world, the public health implication are enormous. We should be wary of the possible risks of cell phone use and take the proper precautions to limit our exposure until more definitive conclusions are made.
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