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Biggest Study On Cellphone Health Effects Launched in Europe

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the pay-extra-to-be-in-the-control-group dept.

Cellphones 109

An anonymous reader writes "The biggest study to date into the effects of cellphone usage on long-term health was launched today, aiming to track at least a quarter of a million of people in five European countries for up to 30 years. The Cohort Study on Mobile Communications (COSMOS) differs from previous attempts to examine links between mobile phone use and diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders in that it will follow users' behaviour in real time. Most other large-scale studies have centred around asking people already suffering from cancer or other diseases about their previous cellphone use. Researchers said long-term monitoring will provide more time for diseases to develop, since many cancers take 10 or 15 years for symptoms to appear."

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permanent mouth movement (5, Funny)

CdXiminez (807199) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952624)

I wonder what mental and dental health effects they find now that most people's mouths never stop moving anymore.

Re:permanent mouth movement (-1, Redundant)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952636)

Moving ? Moving on what? Chewing gum ? BJs ? Talking ?

Re:permanent mouth movement (1)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952682)

Preferably the second option.

Re:permanent mouth movement (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953418)

Well, my dick's ready; is your mouth?

Re:permanent mouth movement (1)

Lueseiseki (1189513) | more than 3 years ago | (#31957636)

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Re:permanent mouth movement (1)

memnock (466995) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956360)

i'm constantly amazed by the drivel i hear from people who walk by me when they're using a cell. when cells were still car battery-sized and less common, my father used to say that people who constantly talked about inane topics had diarrhea of the mouth. it seems to me that cells have caused a pandemic of oral Giardia at this point.

Re:permanent mouth movement (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 3 years ago | (#31957402)

diarrhea of the mouth.

there's a word for that: logoerrea - literally translated from Greek: diarrhea of the logic (logos). the psychological disorder makes sense too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logorrhoea [wikipedia.org]

Foil hats (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952630)

Foil hats on, chaps!

Re:Foil hats (2, Funny)

MoeDumb (1108389) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953184)

These studies give me headaches.

Re:Foil hats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31954732)

Not only that, I get shooting pains in my head every time I reply to one of these threads on Slashdot. /This message was sent from a mobile device/

Its making everyone older and fatter (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953798)

Super sized monthly charges will consume the consumers.

What, now? (-1, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952640)

You know when a great time to start this kind of study would have been? Maybe a decade ago when people were already complaining of cancers and tumors.

But nope, at that time, when we were using cellular phones with higher output levels than today's, we were pooh poohed as crackpots.

How can we trust that the data gathered now will be relevant for all the cases that will appear due to phones from yesteryear?

Scientists have really dropped the ball on this one.

Re:What, now? (5, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952780)

With regards to this data being relevant to cancers from "yesteryear" - to be blunt, they don't care. The purpose of these studies is to determine whether current mobile phone usage poses a risk to the population. If someone developed a cancer from using a phone which was made to poorer standards a decade ago, that's a shame, but there is no particular reason you should expect this research to be relevant to them, and moreover what good would it do? Unless they were anxious to try and throw around lawsuits, there's no benefit to working out the risk factor they were exposed to.

And as for why this study has taken so long to do - you don't launch a study costing many millions of pounds and spanning decades as a first step in research (particularly in a field with relatively sketchy underlying hypotheses). You start with smaller, retrospective, studies which allow for large effects to be readily detected, at a fraction of the cost. The problem with mobile phones is that there is no evidence for the type of large-scale, acute effect which can be readily quantified by such small projects, so a larger project (like this one) is required to look for smaller-scale effects (which may still be significant on the level of the population).

And the problem with a big project is actually managing to get enough stats for sufficient predictive power - in the early days of mobile phone usage there simply weren't enough people regularly using mobile phones to make meaningful predictions about the effects on the level of a population. Indeed, it notes that even five years ago a study of this kind had to be halted because of a lack of participation.

Berating scientists for wanting to perform good-quality studies is not very productive. The demand for scientists to produce dramatic information very quickly tends to lead to lead to misleading results being presented, and statements of that kind (see: foods which cure/cause cancer every other week) is one of the reasons many people are losing faith in science.

Re:What, now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953010)

Right. But now, there is the opposite problem. There might not be enough people NOT using cell phones, in order to constitute a control group.
Without a control group, this won't be a controlled experiment. How are they going to isolate the cell phone factor in apparition of cancers, neurological and cerebro-vascular diseases, etc..? The lack of adequate controls can invalidate your study results.

Re:What, now? (2, Interesting)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953170)

I use my cell phone for about 2 hours a month. My wife uses her cell phone for about that much a day.

I'm pretty sure they can find enough people with different usage levels such that unless there's a very low threshold for risk increase and there's no increase in risk with more use they'll be able to see an affect (if there is one at all).

Re:What, now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953306)

Do the 2 hours include the fact that cellphones are always on, even if you aren't currently using it? A cellphone just lying around still communicates with base stations. The 2 hours per month may very well become 20 or 200 if you carry it around all the time, even if you don't actively use it.

Wow! (2, Insightful)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953972)

It's comments like this on a site supposedly frequented by those most educated in science and engineering that make me believe that the future of our society and civilization is doomed to the ignorance and intellectual laziness of the masses. All the movies about zombies that get made are really about our innate understanding that our end will be at the hands of a mass of unthinking humanity that only wishes to engorge itself on the fruits of the "BRAINS"!

Re:Wow! (2, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#31954538)

It's comments like this on a site supposedly frequented by those most educated in science and engineering that make me believe that a good portion of these frequenters are doomed to ... give the rest of us a bad name.

Yes, great, you may have a point there (I think you overestimate the ability of most people to have a broad knowledge of various subjects --- the post might have been made by a genius computer games programmer who has zero knowledge outside his narrow field of expertise, for example), but really, couldn't you have also explained to the poor, ignorant AC, whoever he is, that the radiation generated by a cell phone on standby is much smaller than that generated by the same phone being used for communication, and that he could have understood this himself if he had just thought about the fact that cell phone batteries are rated by how long they can power the phone in both modes from a full charge, and all cell phones have much longer full-charge standby times than full-charge talking times?

Re:Wow! (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31957302)

The real reason the inverse square law, whereby power falls by a factor of four when the distance is doubled.

You fail it too.

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31957404)

My point is valid, i.e. phones produce radiation during inactivity and the duration of active use alone isn't a sufficient measure.

You are free to pay me to write an extensive paper on how radiation emitted during standby time relates to that during active use. Frankly, I'm not going into that for a mere comment - that's certainly not meant to be a complete treatise on cellphone architecture - on some thread where people of your caliber spew around unbacked insults.

Re:What, now? (2, Informative)

jibjibjib (889679) | more than 3 years ago | (#31954794)

An idle cellphone will transmit occasionally to tell the network it's still on, but not very often and not for very long. Something on the order of a few seconds per hour. The 2 hours per month might become 3 at a stretch, but certainly not 20 or 200.

Re:What, now? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956162)

Yes, considering power outputs the short period of time I carry it when it is on doesn't really add to the total. Most of the time it is switched off, I turn it on a take it with me when I really need to, which isn't that often since I'm a nerd who doesn't leave the computer room let alone the house very often...

The linksys access point in that computer room bathes me with far more radiation than my cell phone, I promise.

Re:What, now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31957256)

But now, there is the opposite problem. There might not be enough people NOT using cell phones, in order to constitute a control group.

Amish. Niggers who live in the jungle where they belong.

Re:What, now? (4, Insightful)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 3 years ago | (#31954502)

.. many people are losing faith in science.

IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

Re:What, now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31955966)

Investigating an issue through scientific means is the opposite of having faith in what you're told.

Most of us didn't actually investigate any meaningful matter on our own, and as such, we simply have faith in what scientists tells us.

Re:What, now? (2, Insightful)

Kozz (7764) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956012)

.. many people are losing faith in science.

IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

Come on. It's an expression. I think you knew that. It's perfectly clear what the GPP meant [reference.com] .

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

There is faith in science (just very little) (3, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956476)

IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

There's a scientific meta-claim that submitting theories to trial by experiment (and discarding the theories which disagree with the world) is likely to produce good theories about how the world works.

How would you verify this? Experimentally? Why would you believe that experimenting is a good way to learn the truth?

Yes, in the end I'm asking "you believe that what you see (perceive) is a reasonably accurate reflecting of what the world really is like; why?" But my answer is still the same: there is an element of faith in science.

That said, I want that kept small, carefully watched and well understood.

Re:What, now? (1)

Aaron_Pike (528044) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956564)

IMHO Faith and Science are exact opposites.

Personally, I disagree. I find that Science (as it has been put) does require faith, but its dogma is limited to something like "I think therefore I am." Everything else is based on rigorous observation and scientific methodology.

Re:What, now? (1)

thirtybelow (1755558) | more than 3 years ago | (#31952988)

Scientists have really dropped the ball on this one.

I think I have the phone number for the president of Science somewhere around here, let me find it for you so you can really give those Scientists a piece of your mind!

More info on study (4, Informative)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952688)

There is some more info here: http://www.mthr.org.uk/research_projects/COSMOS.htm [mthr.org.uk]

Apparently the project is in the UK, Scandinavia and The Netherlands, let's see if I can participate...

No details on how the study is performed but I guess they will just try to gather data for statistical analysis. I hope they will make a difference between calling for hours daily (holding at your ear) and using mobile Internet over 3G for hours daily (on your lap / in hand)... Most studies until now just looked at the length of use and calculate the energy absorbed by the body (i.e. a sack of water), and I guess there aren't really a lot of interesting things to learn from that...

Re:More info on study (0, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952694)

To be fair, though, you're an ugly bag of mostly water.

Is it ? (1)

patrikas (1704126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952712)

Does the "Biggest Study" mean that we have to take its results for granted ? I think that's why they are using those keywords like "Biggest" for..

Cause or effect? (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952778)

So...um, if they find brain cancer in the sector of the population who can't ever seem to put their phones down, will that be diagnosed as a cause or an effect?

Re:Cause or effect? (2, Funny)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952786)

So...um, if they find brain cancer in the sector of the population who can't ever seem to put their phones down, will that be diagnosed as a cause or an effect?

Whichever use better fits whatever point I am trying to make.

Re:Cause or effect? (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#31952932)

This is the real problem. The believers will go right on believing no matter what the conclusion is.

Re:Cause or effect? (4, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953090)

This is the real problem. The believers will go right on believing no matter what the conclusion is.

Truer words were never spoken. The results of the study can never be 'mobile phones cause cancer'. If there is any correlation it will be something like 'heavy use of a mobile phone increases your chance of brain cancer by x%' where x is likely to be quite small or we'd have noticed it by now, and certainly small enough that it won't have much meaning to anyone and they'll keep on doing the same thing as they always have.

What we know right now is that talking on the phone while driving reduces your concentration by some amount (depending on a whole load of factors including the person) and increases your chances of an accident by some amount. It doesn't seem to stop anyone from doing it though. Neither does the threat of punishment. The numbers are small enough that people can rationalise them down to zero through the various cognitive biases that inhabit the human mind. In particular "it will never happen to me".

(My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.)

Re:Cause or effect? (3, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953232)

(My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.)

My bet is that there will be more deaths by phone-attracted lightning than by phone radiation.

Re:Cause or effect? (3, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953448)

> My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.

If that is true heavy cellphone use could actually help reduce your chances of getting cancer ;).

So even if cancer risks actually increase for heavy users who never drive while using them (who are probably a small minority), the results of the study might be "no increase in cancer" to average person :).

Re:Cause or effect? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31963450)

If that is true heavy cellphone use could actually help reduce your chances of getting cancer ;).

Now _you_ should be a researcher! :)

Re:Cause or effect? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#31954342)

(My bet is that phone related distractions cause more accidents and deaths than phone radiation will ever cause.)

(Agreed, but cancer costs society quite a lot more than most forms of death)

Re:Cause or effect? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955338)

My largest concern is what chance my Droid sitting in my breast pocket might give me breast cancer (which men do get.) Especially whenever it's running hot, there's enough energy just in heat radiating off the thing that over the course of years I could see problems possibly arising.

Of course, no more than any other electronic device, but until now I haven't been in the habit of keeping them within millimeters of my skin all day.

Re:Cause or effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31961652)

Especially whenever it's running hot, there's enough energy just in heat radiating off the thing that over the course of years I could see problems possibly arising.

Heat? You're worried about heat? Don't ever get a girlfriend. They give off heat too!

Re:Cause or effect? (1)

woozlewuzzle (532172) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955710)

Actually, I think the information available about the dangers of phone usage while driving *does* stop some people from doing it. It would be nice if more people heeded the warnings. The results of this study may not convince as many people as some would hope, but if it convinces some people (it is or isn't safe) then it has value.

Re:Cause or effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31959714)

Soon it will be a primary traffic offense here in Washington (state), which means a cop can pull you over for talking on your phone while driving

Re:Cause or effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31959348)

> 'heavy use of a mobile phone increases your chance of brain cancer by x%' where x is likely to be quite small or we'd have noticed it by now, and certainly small enough that it won't have much meaning to anyone and they'll keep on doing the same thing as they always have.

Well, that depends more on the projections forward than on the past results. If the ten or so years of data says that there's a small correlation but that it goes up over time, then it's not an issue of "oh, good, I won't get cancer tomorrow" but might be an issue of "oh crap, I might get cancer if I do this another ten years." And if there's any cancer correlation but the rates are different by tissue type - like, brain cancer rates went up, but skin and bone cancers didn't - then it could just mean everyone starts using wired headsets and holding the transmitter part somewhere else instead of right against their head.

Re:Cause or effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31956670)

Regardless of whether someone believes they are going to keep doing it, just look at smoking cigarettes. I don't think anyone doubts anymore that they cause cancer.

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953176)

HOLY FUCK HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO SAY THIS! CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!

Since you guys just don't seem to understand, let me say it again, CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!

I know it still hasn't sunk in, so let me inform you that CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!

Right now you're thinking that correlation implies causation, but it does not. CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!

One final time, let me remind you that CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!

Oh, and since you might have forgotten by now, keep in mind that CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION!

Re:Cause or effect? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953204)

Presumably either "cell-phone usage causes cancer" or "the two are commonly caused by a third factor", unless you can think of a plausible mechanism by which having cancer would retroactively cause cell-phone usage.

Will the results be relevant ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31952804)

If they only take into account the cell phone usage, the results might not be very reliable. By some accounts Vitamin D boosts the immune system and might be able to prevent some forms of cancer. Vitamin D is produced naturally by the human body when exposed to the sun. So people that spend more time outside might have a lower incidence of cancer.
By other accounts green tea might help prevent cancer too, so people drinking lots of it might have a lower incidence too. These are just two examples and I'm sure there are others. Maybe my examples are not the best, but the point is that it's very hard to establish a link between cellphones and cancer, unless you have a controlled experiment.

This test is bound to spend lots of money and provide nothing of real value.

Re:Will the results be relevant ? (2, Insightful)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953142)

The reason it is such a large study is to counteract the problems you mention (like some people may drink green tea and have a lower risk of cancer anyway). A big study makes it more likely that there are the same proportion of green tea drinkers in the control group and the test group.

How much will the US pay for the results? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31952818)

Just wondering...

Cell phone use in public == Neurological disorder (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952822)

I commute by train to work, and must listen, involuntarily, to the conversations that cell phone addicts have, and who seem to think that what they have to say is important and should be shared with the rest of the world.

I don't know if there is a causal relationship between the use of cell phones in public and their owners' behavior . . . I think maybe that some of them have had shit for brains since birth.

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952850)

I don't know if there is a causal relationship between the use of cell phones in public and their owners' behavior . . .

There is. In the reverse order: behavior ==> use of fucking cell phones in public. And "shit for brains" ==> behavior, too.

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (2, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#31952922)

Problem:

I commute by train to work, and must listen, involuntarily, to the conversations that cell phone addicts have, and who seem to think that what they have to say is important and should be shared with the rest of the world.

Solution: Don't commute by train.

General solution: Reduce interaction with strangers if you dislike such interaction.

Rule: Reduce disliked situations.

Law: Be happy.

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953092)

I appreciate your effort in sharing the joy, but can I just get you to quickly suck my dick while you're at it?

thanks. :)

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (2, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953278)

Yeah, cause I'll be way happier getting hit by one of these same morons making calls while they're driving?

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953398)

Yeah, cause I'll be way happier getting hit by one of these same morons making calls while they're driving?

Well, quite some times, replacing train commute for car gets you in humongous jams so they won't hit you very fast.

It's a win/win/bore you out of your skull until you'd rather repeatedly stab your brain with a pencil, situation.

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953688)

This is why I prefer my subway commute to any of my driving commutes; spending a half hour driving is a half hour wasted, but I can read on the subway. I liked my walking commute best of all, but I can't always live within two miles of work. I don't have a problem with cell phones (Note to NYC: Never let anyone wire your subways for cell phones), only morons who need to play their music so loud that even using headphones, it is clearly audible to people at the other end of the car.

Of course, in both cases the problem can be partially solved with earplugs. And for Amtrak, as well as a few other train lines, there is usually a quiet car where cell phone use is prohibited. Man I love those cars.

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953130)

I noticed the very same thing on ham radio operators using VHF handy-talkies. Claims that RF is dangerous to brain cells shouldn't be underestimated...
 

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955964)

Are you sure which way causality is running in this?

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

roju (193642) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956038)

Perhaps they're the normal ones and you're the odd one? Who's to say? Buy some good earphones or earplugs and the problem will go away.

Re:Cell phone use in public == Neurological disord (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956470)

Humans instinctively talk louder when they can't see their conversational partner.

Yeah right (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952840)

Gimme a call when there is a report ready. Oh, while you're busy anyway: could you include a study on chemtrails, too ?

Control group? (5, Insightful)

igaborf (69869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31952848)

Yeah, but where are they going to find a control group of people who don't use a cellphone?

</kidding>

Re:Control group? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31952888)

Yeah, but where are they going to find a control group of people who don't use a cellphone?

/me waves
Don't have one. Don't want one.
I'm not a luddite, I just enjoy my peace and hastle free existence :-)

Re:Control group? (2, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#31952996)

I manage the same thing with a cellphone and no friends.

Re:Control group? (1)

fezzzz (1774514) | more than 3 years ago | (#31952998)

sounds like a volunteer to me

Re:Control group? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953126)

And I'm another. While they're useful, I rather like that if someone wants to get hold of me they have to make an effort. Having a cellphone makes people assume that I'm available to talk to or text all the time, and if I don't answer or, worse yet, turn it off? It's inconceivable to them!
Seriously, I have been told by people I know that if I only had a cellphone, they'd be sending me text messages all the time. Apparently that's supposed to be an encouragement to get one...

Re:Control group? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953664)

That is the only reason I don't have a cell phone. If I end up giving out my number to friends/family, it is assumed that my phone will be on and with me at all times. At least with my land line, it is assumed that if I don't pick up, I was away from the phone.

Re:Control group? (1)

priegog (1291820) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953096)

You might kid, but the control group is ESSENTIAL in a cohorts study in order to being able to stablish causality. Otherwise, what are they going to compare the cases against? The few old people who don't use cellphones?

Re:Control group? (2, Interesting)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953294)

Actually, I doubt there will be a strict dividing line between control and test. They'll use their cell phone records to determine how many minutes they are on the phone per month (possibly taking into account self reported use of hands free devices). You can't tell thousands of people that they may not buy a cell phone for the next 30 years, but you can track usage, and determine if the people talking for half an hour per month have more or less cancer than the people talking for three hours a day.

Re:Control group? (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955538)

Exactly. If you were to measure, say, a son's height vs his father's height, you won't have a control group of people with no fathers.

Re:Control group? (2, Funny)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953272)

Amish...

Re:Control group? (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#31954062)

There are more than a few Amish that use cell phones.

Re:Control group? (2, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953530)

Exactly what I was thinking. Especially as there are no Amish or so in Europe.

Likely there will be no "control" as such and also no placebo group (after all proper medical research is done double blind with the real thing and placebo controls - however a placebo mobile phone just doesn't work), but there will be people that use their mobiles less than an hour a month, and others that don't put them down other than to change batteries. You can easily look at the difference between those two groups and still see whether mobile phone usage increases the risk. If there is a cancer risk, then more usage will increase this risk.

And another option for a "control" is the period until say 1980 - when mobile phones did not exist. How about brain cancer rates in that period of time compared to now?

Actually I think researchers should be able to find some effect simply by looking at total (brain)cancer rates in the population compared to mobile phone usage. Did the cancer rate, or the ratio of brain cancers vs. other cancers, increase over the last few decades?

Most Western countries keep lots of statistics including all kinds of medical records, so such a research should be relatively simple to carry out (simple as in: the data is there already, just has to be compiled together - just a lot of work). I can't believe it hasn't been done yet, still I don't recall having read anything about such a project let alone that it would show brain cancer increases together with mobile phone use increases.

Re:Control group? (2, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955828)

Using pre-1980 numbers for control won't work. Many forms of cancer have been increasing in prevalence over the years. The exact causes aren't known, but it's likely from a combination of reasons. Environmental contamination is one possibility; e.g. BPA and other hormone mimicking chemicals may affect the rates, as could other dietary changes like the increasing prevalence of salt, transfats and HFCS. Some or all of those may be harmless as far as cancer goes, but if any of them do matter, your control is worthless. More importantly, detection methods, particularly for brain cancer are *much* better. Traditional x-rays are useless for detecting most tumors, and the tests prior to 1970 were invasive and dangerous; not used unless there was an urgent need. Commercial CT scans weren't introduced until 1972, and they didn't spread quickly until the 80s. MRI, which is by far the best non-invasive detection method available at present, didn't even enter human trials until 1977. Sure, some cancer would be detected by the invasive, dangerous methods, or post-mortem at autopsy, but you're still going to have numbers that aren't remotely useful for this study.

The presence of so many confounding factors makes it nigh unto impossible to attribute any effect to cell phones without a real study. For instance, CT scanners, which both detect brain cancer and deliver a dose of ionizing radiation, thereby increasing the risk of getting cancer in the first place, spread at roughly the same time wireless technology was taking off (maybe a decade or two before the cell phone craze, but in line with the spread of thousands of other wireless technologies that should be just as dangerous as a cell phone, assuming cell phone radiation is a threat). Same goes for the increased use of plastics (containing BPA) and HFCS as a sugar replacement. You'll never be able to separate out a specific cause, because too many potential cause all arose and spread in a similar time frame.

I do agree that there won't be a proper control and test group with rigorous sorting (I said as much half an hour before you posted); they'll simply monitor minutes and look for patterns in heavy users vs. light users. But your suggestions to simulate a control group using historical data are flawed; the results of a study making such a comparison might get trumpeted in the media, but any decent medical journal would laugh them out of the room.

That said, for a smaller scale study, it might be possible to pay individuals to use or not use a cell phone; if you pick from city dwellers or farm workers for both control and test (as opposed to suburban commuters), they'll have access to a phone when they need it 95% of the time anyway and might be willing to give it up for compensation. Or provide the control group with a cellphone with the builtin speaker and mic disabled, but with a wired handsfree device, so the radiation from the cell phone would be a few feet from the head; the inverse square law would mean they're getting a massively lower dose of radiation to the brain.

Re:Control group? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#31956712)

That said, for a smaller scale study, it might be possible to pay individuals to use or not use a cell phone;

We are not seeing anything like a brain cancer epidemic - and the research has to be done over a period of decades indeed. Paying people to not use mobile phones for decades won't work - and the numbers will be too small to be usable. I don't think we can detect any effect without looking at thousands of people over long periods of time; and even then it may be hard to detect any effects, if they exist.

Medical tech has advanced a lot indeed over the last decades, that for sure. So detection rates changed. I was thinking along the line of "more growth in brain cancer than xxx cancer over the last 50 years" but if detection capability has changed so much then that is flawed from the start.

Re:Control group? (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#31963124)

Using pre-1980 numbers for control won't work. Many forms of cancer have been increasing in prevalence over the years.

Advances in treatment can explain a lot of that. Prevalence is simply the number of people with the disease, so if people are living with it longer (i.e. not cured or killed) then the prevalence will increase despite the incidence staying the same.

The presence of so many confounding factors makes it nigh unto impossible to attribute any effect to cell phones without a real study.

IMHO, this is why such a study is meaningless (albeit I'm sure the reasons for conducting it are political). A person who doesn't use a cell phone is probably less sociable, which is known to have health effects (lowered risk of catching stuff, but overall negative IIRC). It could also be that poorer people are less likely to purchase plans with lots of minutes. Cell phones are too integrated in our lives to isolate as a variable for research.

A proper study (RCT) would do something like take prisioners with >15 year without parole sentences and randomize them into having a cell (no pun intended) that was flooded with EM radiation or not. But that's woefully unethical, would have less statistical power, and may not be extrapolatable to the general population.

Wow, already? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31952882)

What's next? A 45 year study into the health effects of forks?

Who's John Galt?

Re:Wow, already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953038)

No, but a study looking for correlation between Ayn Rand readership and brain damage looks promising.

30 years... (2, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#31952910)

In 30 years, brain cancer may very well be a curable disease.

Re:30 years... (2, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955934)

Brain cancer, and brain diseases in general, are likely the last to be cured. Because on top of the whole "finding a cure for cancer in the first place", you need to be able to deliver the cure to the brain, and many drugs and chemicals will not pass the blood-brain barrier. And cancers of the brain are a tiny fraction of cancers; 1.4% overall, and 2.4% of deaths, so the priority is lower. So while I expect a few cancers to be effectively cured in that time frame, if any remain, brain cancer is likely to be one of them. Beyond that, the study could produce preliminary results well before the 30 years are up that may be useful; dismissing it due to the slow return on investment is ignoring the usefulness of the ongoing results.

Re:30 years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31963444)

There are already lots of brain tumours that can be cured.

I'd rather have a meningioma than oesophageal or pancreatic cancer.

Results (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31952942)

If the results turn out that there is a correlation, people will definitely stop using cell phones, And all wireless networks will be shut down.And people will move to caves because their neighbors are still using wireless. And then the cave peoples will rise and kill the few remaining idiots that continue to use these Dangerous Waves Which The Eye Cant See. And finally all will be well, because the air is clean from annnnnny kind of waves and everyone lives (statistically) 0.001 seconds longer! (not accounting for evolutionary opportunity cost)

Re:Results (3, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953148)

And the cave people will be called Morlocks and the wave-people will be called Eloi...

Re:Results (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953236)

Herbert George is that you?

Re:Results (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#31959098)

nope, doesn't ring a bell.

Re:Results (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#31959382)

H.G. rings no bells. That is a deep subject.

new category of story (4, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953246)

+1, we're going to keep studying this until it agrees with our preconceived ideas.

Re:new category of story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31953506)

-1, no standard of evidence is good enough to allay irrational fears.

So you consider the matter already settled? (2, Insightful)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 3 years ago | (#31953810)

I don't have any opinion on the relationship between cell phone use and health. None. However, the more information the better, particularly in a field as fuzzy and complicated as health. Given how new cell phones are, I would be very much surprised if there was already enough research to consider the matter settled.

Surely, if there is a correlation between cell phone use and this or that health problem, the effect is rather small. Otherwise, as others have noted, we would have already noticed the effect without the assistance of detailed research and statistical analysis. If a problem is found, hopefully sufficiently detailed research will help cell phone manufacturers make cell phones that minimize or even eliminate the effect.

Re:So you consider the matter already settled? (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955096)

I'd turn the question around: at what point would YOU consider it settled?

I agree with you - I don't really have any preconceptions about it, and I'm certainly not an electroneurologist or whomever would be an expert in this field. I use cell phones all the time, and am frankly glad that such an issue is at least part of the design consideration.

But as far as I can tell, every study I've seen has shown no issue. Since pretty much every study's objectivity today appears to be in doubt (somehow, somewhere, someone in the line can be proven to have shown a bias on the issue one way or another) then will another study tell us anything useful? Are 8 negative studies not enough, we need 12? 26? 100?

Non-Ionizing radiation (4, Interesting)

SciBrad (1119589) | more than 3 years ago | (#31954882)

Cannot break apart molecules. How exactly would an electromagnetic wave that can't ionize anything cause cancer? Usually to cause a cancer from radiation you need to cause some sort of ionization damage as far as I'm aware. Physics quite strongly says that these microwaves do not have the proper energy to do this, even if you have a lot of them. People can go on about 'heating effects' which is a common response I see to the non-ionizing radiation bit, but if that were the case, prolonged exposure to heat packs should also cause cancer. Luckily the body is quite good at dissipating heat. Based on physics there is no plausible mechanism for a cell phone to cause a cancer. The radiation just isn't energetic enough to break any bonds, and that is what counts.

Re:Non-Ionizing radiation (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#31955752)

Based on physics there is no plausible mechanism for a cell phone to cause a cancer.

Careful about assuming you know the mechanism.

Actually, it's best to be careful assuming that know anything at all....

There are plenty of stories in medicine where we 'knew' something could or couldn't happen based on current theory, past observations or just because. Then the concept is carefully studied and whaddayaknow, we didn't know what we thought we knew. I personally rather doubt that cell phone use increased brain cancer incidence, but I've been wrong before. Just ask my wife.

Re:Non-Ionizing radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31957138)

Maybe. Think "superposition".

Re:Non-Ionizing radiation (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 3 years ago | (#31959654)

People can go on about 'heating effects' which is a common response I see to the non-ionizing radiation bit, but if that were the case, prolonged exposure to heat packs should also cause cancer. Luckily the body is quite good at dissipating heat.

Difference is, heat packs apply heat from outside the body, and we've evolved to dissipate that kind of heating, as you've said. Heating by radiation can cause localized heating inside the brain, which is quite different, and we don't have the same mechanisms for dissipating that type of heat. We've never evolved such mechanisms as we've never needed them before. Pretty much all chemical reaction rates are temperature dependent, and small changes in temperature can also affect the relative rates of different reactions, so in a system as complex as a biological cell, the outcomes of these systems of reactions can be very different at different temperatures.

And even if the brain is good at dissipating heat, when there is a constant input of radiation as you hold the phone up to your ear for prolonged periods of time, even with dissipation the temperature can still be elevated during your phone call, and that might be long enough to do some damage.

Re:Non-Ionizing radiation (1)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 3 years ago | (#31960562)

There could be a sufficiently large molecular resonance for some important organic molecule, either DNA itself or maybe a protein or enzyme which will interact with the DNA. An example of this is lactose which has a resonance at 530GHz, well known to terahertz researchers. Complicated organic molecules which have very complex shapes, bonds, and mass distributions have multiple frequencies at which they resonate, with varying Q factors, which is very hard to derive. Proteins and DNA in particular I think take many shapes, they "fold", and even the biologists don't have a complete understanding of it.

I'm not saying there is a risk here, even if there is a significant resonance, only that this is a plausible mechanism which may or may not have already been examined by other researchers.

Re:Non-Ionizing radiation (1)

SciBrad (1119589) | more than 3 years ago | (#31962194)

Some replies: 1)This is basic quantum physics. The energy of a photon depends upon its frequency. Simple as that. Microwave photons in any quantity just don't have enough energy to ionize anything. The highest frequency I can think of for a cell would be around 2700MHz. That means the energy of 1 photon is only about 1e-5 eV. 2)Regarding the heat effects: The minuscule heating that would result from a cell phone (these aren't exactly things that carry lots of power, often less than 3 W) will fall off as you go into the body following a skin-depth relation. Any heating from these is going to be small compared to that of a heat press. Yes one is outside but given the much larger amount of thermal radiation it throws off you'll get more heating deeper than a cell phone. Indeed the primary heating is going to be on the surface of the skin right by the phone and that is shown to be far less than heating that occurs from just being out in the sun. 3)A molecular resonance would be the last likely thing to remain, however if it were likely to happen then it should happen to everybody and mess things up. Overall if this effect was present and causing problems (indeed any problems) then given the rapid rise and prevalence of cell-phones now if they caused cancers we'd expect to see a large uptick in brain cancer rates. The rates have remained more or less flat as far as I've ever seen. There just doesn't seem to be any physics based reason to expect cell phones to cause problems based on what what is known. I suspect the study will confirm that, but I guess it is good to check because as said our knowledge is not ever 100% correct. If they were to show an effect then I'd be curious to know what the mechanism was because the most likely ways (above) are easily ruled out.

What possible Health Effects from Cellophane? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31955162)

Cellophane? How could there be any adverse health effects from cellophane?

What? Oh... Cell - Phones. That's very different.

Nevermind.

Still a bad study (2, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#31957778)

Unfortunately, although it's better than studies that try to quantify exposure by asking people to self-estimate their cell phone use (these studies are completely lacking in value, unfortunately), it's still a bad study protocol.

The kind of people who take steps to reduce their microwave radiation exposure from cell phones are, unfortunately, very likely to be the same kinds of people who take steps to reduce their exposure to other possible risks, some of which actually do cause cancer. Not all of these confounding factors can be adjusted out.

Keep in mind the placebo study which showed that not only does the use of a placebo benefit health, but the people who take the placebo regularly and according to instructions benefit more than people who take the placebo less meticulously.

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