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10-Year Cell Phone / Cancer Study Is Inconclusive

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the definite-maybe dept.

Cellphones 248

crimeandpunishment writes "A major international (retrospective) study into cell phones and cancer, which took 10 years and surveyed almost 13,000 people, is finally complete — and it's inconclusive. The lead researcher said, 'There are indications of a possible increase. We're not sure that it is correct. It could be due to bias, but the indications are sufficiently strong ... to be concerned.' The study, conducted by the World Health Organization and partially funded by the cellphone industry, looked at the possible link between cell phone use and two types of brain cancer. It will be published this week."

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first post, however, is not (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230136)

also, you're gay.

Re:first post, however, is not (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230142)

How did you know?

Re:first post, however, is not (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230408)

there were a number of signs that gave it away. Chief among themL the ass-less chaps, the chrome butt plug, and the excellent oral skills you demonstrated by sucking my dick and rimming my asshole.

Limited study (0)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230144)

It seems silly to limit the study to 13,000 when the test pool is potentially in the millions.

Re:Limited study (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230188)

Yeah, because surveying all those people would be ABSOLUTELY FREE and take NO TIME. Also, it's totally necessary to check everyone. Sampling and statistics don't exist.

How silly.

Re:Limited study (4, Informative)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230208)

To get statistical significance, you don't need to sample the entire population. Beyond a certain number for a certain confidence level, you don't get very much more.

Re:Limited study (5, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230390)

No, you get a smoother, more natural bass and just generally a warmer...uh, sorry, wrong thread!

Statistical significance (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32231078)

To get statistical significance, you don't need to sample the entire population. Beyond a certain number for a certain confidence level, you don't get very much more.

Exactly right.

There was no statistical significance, which means that the cancers (or absence there of) were distributed over cell phone users and non-users (controls) with no preference for either group.

Normally this would be the end of it.

But by the way the reporter worded it (Inconclusive) and (to a lesser extent) the way the Researcher phrased it, indicates a clear predilection toward finding a positive correlation, which they could not do.

The takeaway is not that the study "inconclusive". The scientific takeaway is that there is yet again no evidence of correlation between cancer and cell usage.

Its over. The absence of evidence destroys this theory. Time to move on.

Re:Limited study (4, Insightful)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230222)

It seems silly to limit the study to 13,000 when the test pool is potentially in the millions.

Not really. Sampling can give accurate results even when sampling a small percentage of the total population. If U.S. political polls select a sample size of between a few hundred and a thousand out of 300 million with only 3% error, it sounds reasonable that 13,000 would be a good sample size of a population 20 times that, giving the same margin of error.

Also remember that, assuming the sample is chosen well (it is a good cross-section of the population and not confined to one specific subgroup), the benefits of adding additional samples drops off. It is essentially logarithmic: at first, adding samples is a huge benefit: after a certain point, the incremental gain from one additional sample is only a tiny fraction of the first samples.

Re:Limited study (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230362)

If U.S. political polls select a sample size of between a few hundred and a thousand out of 300 million with only 3%..."

I'm not so sure those percentages are accurate. You'll often see different polls differ by much more than that (far more often than 5% of the time or whatever the confidence level is).

I have a suspicion that the math works out with a lot of "if a1 through aN are true, then..." and then no one going to the trouble of working out how likely each of those is to actually be true because they're hard to measure.

Certainly actual elections tend to fall well outside the +/- 3% accuracy claimed by many of the election-day pollsters.

Re:Limited study (3, Informative)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230458)

If U.S. political polls select a sample size of between a few hundred and a thousand out of 300 million with only 3%..."

I'm not so sure those percentages are accurate.

They look accurate to me. From me undergrad stats classes, I seem to recall that to get 5% confidence level out of population of 10k, one needed a sample of around 850. For populations of 1000k, the sample size only went up by a few tens (perhaps to 900). Sampling is not linear, and it drops off the higher you go - IIRC (and I think I do), their is very little difference in the sample size for a population of 100k as there is for twenty times that number.

Re:Limited study (2, Informative)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230676)

While people in large numbers are essentially predictable (and therefore boring, which is why statistics - for the most part - works), those theorems are strictly valid only for true random variables. As GP pointed out, the differences between different polls sometimes like far outside the error bounds set by the poll itself. Kinda makes the error bound meaningless since it has been repudiated by empirical means. As always, observations reign supreme and if there's a conflict with theory, it is usually a case of unjustified assumptions - in this case, taking the approximate equivalence between mathematical random variables and real world people to be exact.

Also, you are right about more not being any better. At some point, you are just adding more and more precision to an inaccurate answer. It's like a calculator fetish - getting predictions to the 18th decimal point using a flawed model and wondering why they don't match reality.

Re:Limited study (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230472)

Certainly actual elections tend to fall well outside the +/- 3% accuracy claimed by many of the election-day pollsters.

Because for many of those pollsters accuracy isn't main goal; swaying people, untill the last minute, to vote for the "winners" is.

Re:Limited study (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230664)


I'm not so sure those percentages are accurate. You'll often see different polls differ by much more than that (far more often than 5% of the time or whatever the confidence level is).

Election polling is just especially difficult, since what counts is if you actually vote and who you vote for, neither of which have been determined at the time of the poll and could change. Election polling isn't simply an opinion poll, but is obviously supposed to reflect the population of people who will actually vote on election day. The polls have differing models of selecting "likely voters", and will thus have numbers that differ more than the margin of error for any single poll. In other words, taking the margin of error for a single poll and comparing it among multiple polls is invalid, since the differing polls used different means of sample selection.


Certainly actual elections tend to fall well outside the +/- 3% accuracy claimed by many of the election-day pollsters.

I guess I haven't found that to be true if you mean "tend to" is more than 50% of the time. Sure, you're going to find some that are outside of the 3% error bars, but you'd also expect that to happen, statistically speaking.

Re:Limited study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230824)

You're comparing apples and oranges. The true measure of a poll's sampling accuracy isn't how well it matches the election result, but how well it would match the same poll answered by 100% of voters. You might think that a poll of all voters would match the actual election result, but that's only the case if people respond honestly (there are various reasons why people don't) and they don't change their minds between being polled and casting their vote. This isn't something which a larger sample would fix.

Re:Limited study (4, Informative)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230420)

The principle is correct, but you're failing to take into account the probability of an the respective events. Given that winning 60% of the vote is considered a landslide, you can think of asking someone whether they're voting Republican or Democrat as a coin flip with a small bias in one way or the other. Because the race is so close, a few extra republicans or democrats in your sample won't produce a huge error in your estimate.

On the other hand, a brain tumor can be thought of as a rare event. If the true incidence rate of brain cancer is five occurrences per thousand people over ten years, and your sample of 1,000 people has six incidences, you have a sample error of 20%. It's because of this that a small variation in the numbers can produce a large error. Therefore if you want to accurately assess the rate of cancer, you need a much bigger sample size.

Re:Limited study (0, Troll)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230260)

I can't wait for Watts Up With That to release a few pictures of some of the survey participants walking out of tanning salons and living near radar towers and claiming the study is a sham as a result. Besides, everyone already knows that scientists keep doing these studies just because they're greedy for all the grant money they get rich from.

Re:Limited study (0, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230402)

Besides, everyone already knows that scientists keep doing these studies just because they're greedy for all the grant money they get rich from.

I'm amazed that the population in general have taken so long to realise that science has become a huge scam; I'd figured that out when I was studying for my Physics degree back in the 80s.

Re:Limited study (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230722)

Yes. Because a brilliant person wanting to be rich decides on research physics as ticket to the pot 'o' gold. If that's what you truly believe, I have this bridge I'd like to sell you ...

Oh yes. Nearly forgot - 2/10 (needs a better username)

Also, I suspect GP was being sarcastic and your detector (or possibly mine) was broken :p

Re:Limited study (3, Informative)

mmarlett (520340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230438)

It really seems silly when, in America at least, age-adjusted rates of brain cancer have fallen or held steady since the 1990s. From the National Cancer Institute [cancer.gov] :

From 1990 to 2002, the overall age-adjusted incidence rates for brain cancer decreased slightly; from 7.0 cases to 6.4 cases for every 100,000 persons in the United States. The mortality rate from 1990 to 2002 also decreased slightly; from 4.9 deaths to 4.4 for every 100,000 persons in the United States. The incidence and mortality rates for cancers that originate in the brain and central nervous system have remained relatively unchanged in the last decade.

It would seem to me that falling cancer rates are no reason for assuming that widespread cellphone use has been a health concern.

Re:Limited study (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230802)

I'm confused by your last statement. Are you saying that falling cancer rates do not let cellphone use off the hook for other health concerns? It seems that your quote from the NCI does exactly that as far as cancer is concerned (no more or less cancer with or without cellphone use would imply a lack of correlation there). Sure, that doesn't mean it couldn't raise other health concerns. For instance, I'd be worried about a faster approach to senility considering the mindless babbling on cellphones you get to hear in public, but that's another story. Besides, since we're essentially marinated in wifi signals all the time, I doubt the wireless genie can be put back in its box ever again. Even if it was found to be dangerous now, for all practical purposes, it's here to stay, so I really hope it's safe.

Re:Limited study (2, Interesting)

mmarlett (520340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230952)

I mean that if cell phones cause cancer, you would expect the rate of cancer to raise along with the use of cell phones. Instead, cancer rates have fallen or stayed the same for 20 years.

Re:Limited study (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230886)

So from 1990 to 2002 cancer rates decreased slightly, while cellphone usage increased significantly? It looks like cellphones are actually a cure for cancer!

Two chicks at the same time, here I come!

Re:Limited study (3, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230514)

The uncertainty in the study is due to the low precision of their data- they asked people to try and remember how much they were typically using their cellphones. Surveying more people isn't going to get people to provide more precise data.

Also, unless the needed data is already available somewhere, gathering more data costs more money. As someone else mentioned in a sibling post, there are diminishing returns when increasing your sample size. Eventually the cost of the data will exceed the benefit to the certainty of your results.

Re:Limited study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230748)

Please either learn a bit about statistical power [wikipedia.org] or stop expressing opinions on it.

It's all relative (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230160)

At least from this we know that cell phone radiation isn't causing some massive epidemic of brain cancer, and the affects, if there are any, are relatively small. That's not the biggest comfort you could have, but it's something (considering most of us are not going to give up our cell phones anyway).

Re:It's all relative (4, Insightful)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230196)

Most people who have high cell phone usage also share other behavior. CEO use cells a lot and have high stress. Stress is a key factor in a lot of cancers. It's hard to track the roots of the problem.

Re:It's all relative (4, Interesting)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230344)

And some stress could certainly be caused by cellphone usage. Not that I'm disagreing with you. Creating fair studies that takes into effect all independent variables is hard.

Re:It's all relative (2)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230440)

It could be caused by the stress of talking to people on the phone and perhaps some effect of the radio waves. Nothing has been proven.

Re:It's all relative (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230482)

The problem with "stress" is that it is hard to define. For some people, yes, cell phones could cause stress, for others such as me cell phones probably reduce stress by keeping me connected. If something major happens I'm easily notified via cell phone or can notify others. What causes stress for some people might not cause stress for others. For example I tend to get stressed out when things don't arrive quickly, mailed test scores for standardized tests used to stress me out much more than the test generally did because there was uncertainty and delayed consequences. So while some people might be stressed out because of constant access to information there are others who stress out a lot more because of lack of information.

Re:It's all relative (1)

AusIV (950840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230878)

How much difference does it actually make if you're the one using the cell phone vs being anywhere in the vicinity of a cell phone and tower? I'm not asking about cancer risk, because we've already seen those results were inconclusive, but I'm assuming we have some way to measure exposure to radiation. I would guess people who live closer to cell towers are exposed to more radiation than someone who is using a cell phone all day, but that could be a completely false assumption. If that guess is correct, however, I doubt there would be much correlation to radiation exposure and lifestyle factors.

Re:It's all relative (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230354)

It's difficult to be sure. The fact they could find neither a conclusive link nor disprove one indicates they missed something which is likely associated. While it's rather difficult prove a negative, you usually can do well enough.

My personal opinion is there's no direct link but since this is such a politicized issue people pretty much think what they want. The closest analogy I can think of is the vaccination/autism argument. The real

Re:It's all relative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230414)

How exactly do you prove a negative?

This is fascinating and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter on new developments in the scientific method.

Re:It's all relative (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230356)

cell phone radiation isn't causing some massive epidemic of brain cancer

Even if there were a high percentage of brain cancers from phone users, how would you tell the difference between cancer caused by RF wave, which has no theoretical basis or past proven medical experience/documentation, or cancer caused by weird plastics, weird dyes, lead paint, weird petrochemical outgassing from the plastic phones, which has a reasonable scientific biological basis for causing cancer, and unfortunately plenty of medical experience/documentation?

Correlation Causation...

Re:It's all relative (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230424)

Isn't this one of those things where you have to be talking on your phone for several hours a day for several years? I use mine for an average of two calls a day, each lasting an average of 20 sec. Or is it the latent emissions (eg polling the nearest tower) or the non-voice work (texts, emails, tweets, etc) that do it?

Re:It's all relative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230566)

Isn't this one of those things where you have to be talking on your phone for several hours a day for several years? I use mine for an average of two calls a day, each lasting an average of 20 sec. Or is it the latent emissions (eg polling the nearest tower) or the non-voice work (texts, emails, tweets, etc) that do it?

I don't know... maybe we should do a study :)

Re:It's all relative (1)

jibjibjib (889679) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230782)

My phone's emissions when idle are for something on the order of a few seconds an hour. Non-voice work is also intermittent. And if the phone is 10 times further away from your brain, the received power at your brain is 100 times less.

I believe that if you make one short call a day, the energy your brain receives from that call will probably still be enough to make all the other network traffic negligible in comparison.

Re:It's all relative (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230426)

And this small possible influence all the while people generally don't use BT headsets. They might do that, for a start.

Relative and irrelevant (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230778)

Really, what does it matter if cellphones cause cancer or not?

Modern society is pretty dependant on everyone being part of the information loop and being available all the time. Yeah, we were able to survive long before this happened - just like we were able to survive long before computers - but it would be practically impossible to return to how things were (just like it would be practically impossible to return to the time before computers and TV). Hell, we can't completely rid the society of smoking, etc. though they have little to no positive sides. How in world could we ever make people stop using cellphones? Devices which are very useful. Even if we found out that they increase the chances of cancer by a large amount, it would probably still be orders of magnitude easier to go after less useful things that still cause more health problems.

I'm not saying that this shouldn't be researched. I'm all for us finding out more about human body, etc... And perhaps this could be useful some way (if the current technology is found unhealthy, perhaps we could put more resources into researching alternatives that would offer the same functionality with lower health risks, for example. And those technologies could become useful in unforeseeable ways, too.). It also allows people to make more educated decisions (such as parents deciding whether to wait one more year before buying their child a cellphone, etc.) But even so... Whenever I see news about studies that concern cancer and cellphones I can't help but think "So what? It's not as if we were gonna go back to the time before cellphones even if they do cause cancer..."

Re:It's all relative (1)

defaria (741527) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230796)

Ugh! How stupid are people!! Really!!! Reminds me of the silly "You gotta turn of your cell phone and portable devices" bullshit. Only in America (well maybe the stupid hysteria has spread to stupid European countries too by now). I never - I repeat NEVER - turn off my cell phone. No plane has ever crashed as a result. It's a myth foolish people - just like this one. See http://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=debunking+cell+phones+and+cancer&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 [google.com]

Re:It's all relative (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230848)

You seem to act like people should never study to understand this effect deeper. That is silly, more research is always good.

What is the use, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230168)

If cellphones cause an increase in brain cancer of say, 5%, would you stop using one? I wouldn't.

"Survey"? (0, Troll)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230172)

I'd very much like to know how they "surveyed" the people. Simply asking people if they've experienced any effects from cell-radiation is almost bound to get "yes" answers from flat-earth-society-wannabes. I'm guessing that the survey was a survey, and not a blind study (i.e. the subjects aren't aware of the correlation being investigated when questioned).

hey strawman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230266)

flat earthers and people who have effects from cell phone radiation have nothing to do with each other. way to completely fail linking the 2 together

Re:"Survey"? (4, Insightful)

ph1ll (587130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230306)

And even if there is some correlation, people need to put it in perspective.

The last time I talked to a flat-earth-er about their fear of cell phones causing cancer, they had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Now that, Alanis Morrissette, is irony.

Re:"Survey"? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230380)

From the article:

It was also based on people searching their memories to estimate how much time they spent on their cell phones, a method that can throw up inaccuracies.
It analysed data from interviews with 2,708 people with a type of brain cancer called glioma and 2,409 with another type called meningioma, plus around 7,500 people with no cancer.

They only asked people how much time they spent on the cell phones. Risk of getting cancer was based on hard data (medical diagnosis).

WTF? (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230384)

Why in the world would they ask someone if they felt ill effects from their cell phone? They probably asked how much a person uses their phone, if they use a hands free device and what medical conditions they have among a host of other questions. They dont go around surveying what a bunch of laymen think are the causes of diseases.

Seriously, what the hell kind of comment is that? How does this idiocy get modded up?

Re:"Survey"? (1)

dj961 (660026) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230432)

From wiki: A blind or blinded experiment is a scientific experiment where some of the persons involved are prevented from knowing certain information that might lead to conscious or unconscious bias on their part, invalidating the results.
There's no real reason for this study to be blind or double blind; people either have brain tumors or they don't. I suspect that instead of asking, the scientists took a look at a persons medical history and looked for brain tumors.

Re:"Survey"? (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230558)

I'm guessing they did it properly. From TFA:

"The study received 19.2 million euros ($24.4 million) in funding, around 5.5 million euros of which came from industry sources. It analysed data from interviews with 2,708 people with a type of brain cancer called glioma and 2,409 with another type called meningioma, plus around 7,500 people with no cancer.

Participants were from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Britain. ($1=.7872 Euro) (Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Reed Stevenson)"

Picking up women. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230678)

I'd like the names and phone numbers of the women to answered in the affirmative that the cell phones are causing them health problems so I can give them a call!

Hey baba! I use a cell phone, live by power lines, have electrical wiring all around me in my home, I'm constantly bombarded by electromagnetic radiation. I'm one bad-ass mo fo and you want me, don't ya!?

Women: "Oh, you're so, so, DANGEROUS!"

That's right! I'm talking to you right now on my CELL PHONE!

"Oh, I think I'm cumming....Oh! Oh!"

ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION!

"Come over now and do me!"

That's what will happen!

Wales has resigned as chief cunt of Wikipedia (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230192)

Why aren't we all over this?

Too bad (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230220)

I was hoping that all those tools using blue tooth headsets were going to get prostate cancer as punishment.

Re:Too bad (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230454)

I was hoping that all those tools using blue tooth headsets were going to get prostate cancer as punishment.

Hmm... they would have to wear their headsets on the wrong head for that ;)

Re:Too bad (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230516)

Those not realising there are plenty of other places to keep your cellphone (also not quite so close to the body), certainly should.

No answer is sort-of an answer (1, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230228)

Cell phones cause so much cancer that ... the most widespread studies cant tell whether they cause cancer at all. That is good news for cell phone users.

Re:No answer is sort-of an answer (0, Troll)

Entropy2016 (751922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230358)

Inconclusive != negative result. There's a big difference.

Re:No answer is sort-of an answer (1, Informative)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230400)

There's an even bigger difference between inconclusive and a strong positive result. If cell phones caused a huge number of cancers, studies would not be inconclusive.

Re:No answer is sort-of an answer (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230650)

Well it sounded like they found some alarming correlation with some specific rare cancers. So like the other poster said, inconclusive is not the same as a negative result. I'm not sure why you are pretending that inconclusive somehow fits your ridiculous argument.

What you're saying is just not how statistics work. If the general population has a 1% chance of getting a specific type of cancer over 20 years, and a study found that people using cell phones seemed to have a 2% chance of getting cancer, then that group is twice as likely to get cancer as the general population and that would be huge news that consumers would want to know. However, a lot of these small percentages often fall near margin of error, and are thus are inconclusive. I'm not sure why, but you make it sound like in order to prove a link with cancer they needed to show 80% of people using cellphones had cancer or something. That's just not how it works.

Re:No answer is sort-of an answer (2, Interesting)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230654)

Actually, it kind of does. If you have a null hypothesis "there is no link between cellphone use and brain cancer" then an inconclusive result would fail to disprove the null hypothesis and therefore affirm it. This is based on choosing a null hypothesis that is based on the sensible default position, which in this study is fine as long as you're the kind of person who is willing/capable of understanding that we are constantly bathed in all sorts of EM radiation of which cellphones only play a small part and that the default position from a conventional understanding of physics is that they're likely to be harmless.

It's also based on the idea that, for a risk factor for cancer(s) significant enough to be worth worrying about, we would expect to see an obvious and conclusive result. For instance, when testing the null hypothesis "there is no like between smoking and lung cancer", the observed data would overwhelmingly reject the null hypothesis. The reality is that there's all sorts of things [facebook.com] that people think cause cancer, and many of them may do (e.g. drinking hot drinks regularly is linked with oral cancer) but most of the risk factors aren't significant to be worth worrying about.

So each side calls success? (2, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230240)

So people who are convinced cellphones cause cancer are going to take their "possible increase" and declare scientists just definitively said cellphones cause cancer.

On the other hand, cellphone companies may try to take "we're not sure that it is correct" and declare no link to cancer.

whether or not there is any risk... (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230248)

The whole question seems kind of silly because there is another source of radiation people are exposed to every day that is far more likely to cause cancer...the sun.

You have a much higher likelihood of developing cancer from UV light than from microwaves.

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230348)

> You have a much higher likelihood of developing cancer from UV light than from microwaves.

I don't think you can say that if the linkage between microwaves has not yet been determined or characterized.

The study says what nearly all other studies have said: we don't know. That is reason enough for me to turn the bloody thing off - I hate being that accessible. Not to mention, usage can be moderated anyway using a headset. What I wonder about is wi-fi, because the laptop is so often on my lap and the antenna in the display is only a foot or so from my manly parts. Knowing the inverse square law doesn't make me feel that much better about it.

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230498)

The study says what nearly all other studies have said: we don't know.

No, it says that if there is an effect then it's so insignificant that we can't find any valid evidence for it. And I'm sure any effect that insignificant could be completely eliminated at minimal cost by wearing a tin-foil hat.

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230368)

>>You have a much higher likelihood of developing cancer from UV light than from microwaves.

Depends. It's probably better to be out in the sun than hiding inside in your parent's garage.

Forest Rangers have an abnormally low level of skin cancers, and they absorb as much UV light as anyone. (Hint: It's called a tan.)

Sunlight has lots of other benefits as well, not the least of which is you're probably exercising instead of playing WoW all day.

Sunlight is life-supporting in many ways (1)

nido (102070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230490)

Sunlight has lots of other benefits as well, not the least of which is you're probably exercising instead of playing WoW all day.

Human skin synthesizes Vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is anti-cancer [sciencedaily.com] , anti-rickets [wikipedia.org] , anti-birth-defect, anti-flu (flu season takes place when the sun goes away for the winter), etc.

So basically, Vitamin-D is the Medical-Industrial Complex's worst enemy.

With that said, regular sunburns aren't good. It's usually best to stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day, approx. 12-2pm, and avoid sunscreen no matter what (which prevents the synthesis of Vitamin D).

Re:Sunlight is life-supporting in many ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230582)

It's their worst enemy? That must be why every doctor and medical study is saying people to need to increase their vitamin D consumption.

I'm a pharmacist and Vitamin D is the new "miracle drug", everyone is suggesting it, prescribing and taking it.

Re:Sunlight is life-supporting in many ways (1)

nido (102070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32231036)

This is the substance that can't be patented, is free for most of the year, cures cancer, prevents the flu, etc etc. Vitamin D single-handedly makes high-priced medicine as archaic as bloodletting and quicksilver.

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230570)

It's definatelly better to be outside. Some people take "in the sun" too far though... And I would guess Forest Rangers aren't one of those; at least the equivalent in my place has sensible clothing, given the place they usually work in (plus - often trees). But those specific places are generally damn healthy, too.

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (1)

sparrowhead (1795632) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230388)

I don't know about the rest of the people on slashdot, but despite being light skinned and red haired, the sun poses no threat to my health!

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230434)

It shouldn't be too hard to reduce exposure to cancer-inducing cellphone radiation if any such radiation exists- it helps to know definitively so we can take action as needed. Given we already have measures to reduce the risk of getting cancer from sunlight (limit exposure, use sunscreen), we can safely move on to seeking out other means of getting cancer and dealing with them.

I would be very careful using the "why worry about X at all when Y is a bigger problem" argument. It is useful if you have to choose one thing or the other, but falsely implying you have to make a choice or distorting what the choice is just makes the argument misleading and hurts your credibility. Sure, sunlight is a bigger cancer risk (if cellphones pose any risk), but I don't see what study we should have done with regard to sunlight that would be more insightful than studying cellphone/cancer correlation. Sun-induced cancer is fairly well understood, so it makes sense to move on to what we don't know.

Re:whether or not there is any risk... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230914)

You have a much higher likelihood of developing cancer from UV light than from microwaves.

Citation needed. You're saying it's silly to investigate the likelihood of cell phones or microwaves causing cancer because you're more likely to get it from the sun. What is that based off of? Gut feelings about the relative likelihood?

In science and especially health-related scientific questions, you test a hypothesis, you don't just assume. At some point someone thought the question of "could the sun's rays be causing cancer" was silly because obviously the sun, giver of all life, could not be causing ill effects aside from some sunburn. We needed to investigate whether or not cell phones were causing cancer because we didn't actually know.

Furthermore, even if the sun did cause far more cancer than cell phones, you might want to take all the steps you can to avoid cancer, as most of us do. If cell phones -were- linked to cancer, you could stop using one and still reduce your threat of cancer, much like how we've taken steps to ensure we don't get skin cancer from UV rays.

easy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230254)

in the given (not yet proven) chance that cellphones do give cancer, why not purchase a wired hands-free headset and be done with it?

-arc

Re:easy (1)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230364)

Cause people who use handsfree looks like tools and annoy bystanders who think they are psycotic maniacs talking to themselves.

Re:easy (1)

sparrowhead (1795632) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230372)

If i'm not mistaken, the wire of those headsets acts as antenna in the majority of cell phones. It will, however, certainly act as antenna for the radiation around you, so if that radiation increases the risk of cancer, the antenna will add to that.

Problem with surveys (4, Insightful)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230314)

I have a problem with "medical surveys" in that they a prone to make correlation-causation errors. This seems to be a measurable problem that can be tested in the lab. Why don't people do this instead. Put a lab monkey next to an active mobile phone and keep them there for several years. After that, dissect the monkey for any signs of cancer. If there is, then alert the public. You then look into how it happened, i.e the biochemical interactions that caused it. Just "surveying" people introduces biases, other factors like diet and lifestyle and also crackpots.

Re:Problem with surveys (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230406)

Put a lab monkey next to an active mobile phone

Don't forget to put a "control" lab monkey next to a Chinese made kids toy.

Polymerized plastics are vaguely believed to be safe, unless they're the scare tactic of the month like plastics containing BPA. Partially unpolymerized monomers are vaguely dangerous. Some of the initiators / mold releases / dyes / lead paints used in the plastic industry are downright hazardous. Basically, if its plastic, and it smells when it's new out the of package, its probably dangerous to your health. The only question is how dangerous.

Re:Problem with surveys (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230544)

Why don't people do this instead. Put a lab monkey next to an active mobile phone and keep them there for several years. After that, dissect the monkey for any signs of cancer.

But that wouldn't let you rake in tens of millions of dollars of funding to keep yourself off the dole queue for the next decade (doesn't take a gaggle of scientists to feed a monkey every day).

Plus the 'animal rights' nutters would burn down your house.

Re:Problem with surveys (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230596)

You still can. For a better accuracy, use a 1000 monkeys instead. And to make sure it is *only* the cell phones that could cause the cancer in the monkeys, build a highly controlled environment, and feed carefully controlled food that is guaranteed not to cause cancer.

And there you go, you could easily spend millions for such a setup.

Re:Problem with surveys (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230648)

Why don't people do this instead. Put a lab monkey next to an active mobile phone and keep them there for several years.

Are you crazy? Do you know how much the phone bill would be man???

After that, dissect the monkey for any signs of cancer.

Why? We have so many teenage girls permanently attached to their cellphones that it seems like a waste of a perfectly good monkey. Of course some of the dads might object if their angelic daughters were dissected, but hey you have to sacrifice for progress.

Re:Problem with surveys (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230686)

Well first, where do you find monkeys who use cell phones, Mr. Smart guy!

Don't be so dismissive (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230712)

Surveys don't try to prove causation, only correlation. I'm not really even sure what a correlation-causation error is, actually. The problem lies in what people think they imply.

Still, you shouldn't discount a survey as a useful statistical tool. Especially for mapping trends over time. Most of what you dismiss as introduced biases is accounted for, and factored out. If you have ever read one of these types of studies they are careful to give results with various factors included as well as removed to control for. Such as demographics, family history, smokers, etc etc. This way the reader can judge for themselves.

Re:Problem with surveys (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230760)

> I have a problem with "medical surveys" in that they a prone to make correlation-causation errors.
No they aren't. The people who conduct medical surveys such as this are invariably qualified epidemiologists who don't need to be told the difference between correlation and causation by some guy on slashdot.

Now, the media reporting of such surveys quite often conflates correlation and causation; see:

http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1174 [phdcomics.com]

The final stage, not illustrated in the above diagram, involves some guy on slashdot conflating the actual surveys with media coverage of said surveys.

Re:Problem with surveys (4, Insightful)

idealego (32141) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230762)

It's not that simple. You're ignoring statistics. You'd need a certain number of monkeys and some of them would have to be controls. If the effect is predicted to be small you may need thousands of monkeys. Animal rights groups would have a fit over this.

The monkeys would also have to experience the cellphone radiation in a similar way that humans would. The radiation would have to be emitted as if a cellphone were pressed up against their ear, and it would have to be intermittent as to simulate a human taking calls throughout the day.

Different cellphone systems run on different frequencies. If there was strong evidence to suggest that one caused cancer we couldn't necessarily assume that they all do, including future networks running on different frequencies. The same could be said about the power of the transmitter--different phones transmit at different levels of power, and future phones may be very different.

Some researchers believe that some cancers may take much longer than 10 years to show, so a thorough experiment may need to last 30 years or more. By the time good data is collected the cellphone networks would probably be using different frequencies and possibly lower power transmitters.

I'm sure there are other factors that I'm not even thinking about. Setting up a bulletproof experiment of this nature and getting solid results in a reasonable period of time is at least difficult and maybe impossible.

Re:Problem with surveys (1)

drfireman (101623) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230974)

Both experimental and non-experimental studies are useful for this kind of thing. Neither is perfect, neither is useless. One of the great advantages of non-experimental studies here is that you can get enough data to estimate the size of a relatively subtle effect with enough accuracy to be useful, while taking into account numerous other potentially interacting factors. As a practical matter, you can't run a study of thousands of monkeys using cell phones, even if it were a good idea (which it isn't). If you're worried about researchers conflating correlation and causation, or in general making errors due to confounded analyses or obvious sources of bias, then you're probably reading too many journal articles by researchers who don't know what they're doing. It happens sometimes, but the problem is less epidemic in better journals.

Your plan with the lab monkey and a mobile phone is amusing, but of course not useful for anything more important than the local news. Perhaps not even that, the local news is probably high on the list of disseminators of misinformation.

Phew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230320)

I don't need to worry about this as I live in the UK where we use mobile phones instead.

Kdawson is on a useless medical study kick (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230338)

today.

Seems that we'd be far better off if we just stuck to things with facts rather than doing the typical causation = correlation crap.

Surveys are not by my definition of the word, scientific.

It ends up something like this:

Do you have brain cancer?

Yes!

Do you think it was caused by your cell phone?

Oh my ... you know, I do use it a lot, that MUST be it! I didn't have brain cancer 10 years ago before I started using my cell phone!!

Hrm, we conclude there is a strong possiblity that cell phones cause cancer, give us more money to research some more!!!!

Re:Kdawson is on a useless medical study kick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230496)

Yeah I' sure the researcher asked the participant what they thought was the cause, because that's normal for a scientific study to gauge cause via public opinion.

You're as bad as kdawson.

Oh noes...not radio! (2, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230350)

Have they done this study against other types of radio frequencies like cordless land-line phones? What about emergency services workers that carry radios on their hips until needed...are they being checked for hip-cancer? Doesn't Nike or some other shoe maker have a device that fits inside a shoe so people can listen to FM whilst jogging? Watch out for heel-cancer! The point being, why are cell-phones being singled out as possible culprits where then are so many other devices out there that use radio technology?

I think the media has way too much control over what is allowed to scare us into taking action. It seems that our efforts could be better directed toward something that actually makes sense. Let Mythbusters handle this type of shit.

Re:Oh noes...not radio! (1)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230492)

Cell phones get singled out because it is a multi-billion dollar industry that has "deep pockets" for tort lawyers to sue out of existence.

Re:Oh noes...not radio! (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230656)

I agree with the sentiment, but if we were to single out one thing, it makes sense for it to be cellphones. Cellphones emit radiation that has to be picked up miles away, so a large portion is going through you. Most of what you mentioned receive radiation from miles away, so you are being hit by only a fraction of the radiation the source emits. Cordless phones only have to transmit a few feet- maybe a few hundred at most, so they can be low-power compared to your cellphone. Two-way radios would be emitting when talking into it, but generally aren't used for extended conversation like with cellphones.

I don't know the relative power of all these devices or sources so I don't know how well the above argument holds, and in the end I am skeptical that heavy cellphone use causes cancer, but cellphones are so common it makes sense to make sure. I would rather we do dozens of studies that simply confirm our expectation of no correlation, than to decide not to do a study that would have proven our expectations wrong.

Re:Oh noes...not radio! (1)

black3d (1648913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230736)

These other devices you've named are all low-Hz radio devices, operating at levels which occur naturally in nature. You can test this yourself by tuning to a non-existant station. What we call "static" is naturally occuring radio waves. FM radio is simply the modulation of those radio waves. Cellular technology operates at frequencies usually reserved for cosmic events, and do so right next to your head.

Comparing FM radios to Cellular phones is like comparing iron to uranium. They both decay, however the radiation from one is a lot more dangerous than the other.

That being said, I don't care either way in the debate. If people do use cellphones for 2 hours a day and get cancer from them, their problem. I use a cell phone for less than 2 hours a quarter. If they don't, hey - nobody's problem. Just answering your question for you. While you mock, the difference between radio and cell technology is quite marked.

What it means (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230374)

So you know what that means, right? We are all going to die horrible deaths. (Or at least some of us).

There, I have concluded the inconclusive study.

USA Today (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230392)

The article in USA Today has a nice little gem in it: "The authors acknowledged possible inaccuracies in the survey from the fact that participants were asked to remember how much and on which ear they used their mobiles over the past decade. Results for some groups showed cellphone use actually appeared to lessen the risk of developing cancers, something the researchers described as "implausible."" Now, I don't know why, but something about this statement seems kind of important.

Re:USA Today (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230448)

Results for some groups showed cellphone use actually appeared to lessen the risk of developing cancers, something the researchers described as "implausible."

People with UNDIAGNOSED very early stage brain cancer might have problems functioning in society, equals less likelihood of cell phone ownership. Not implausible at all.

Re:USA Today (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230900)

What this statement, and the statements in the accompanying article mean is that the researchers clearly had a strong bias towards finding a positive result. It was quite clear that the authors don't understand what "inconclusive" means in this context.

There is a simple idea associated with this sort of study that wasn't mentioned at all - correlation does not imply causation. That is that even if a correlation WAS found it still doesn't imply that cell phone use causes brain cancer.

But the converse does not apply - i.e the LACK of correlation DOES imply lack of causation. And that is the bitter pill for those who propose cell phone use as a cause of brain cancer - this study, and its 'inconclusive' evidence is actually evidence that cell phones DO NOT cause brain cancer.

Too late (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230540)

To stop [cellphoneionizer.com] these [waveshield.com] buncha [safecell.net] creeps [emfblues.com] from making a pretty dollar. This one in particular cracked me up:

Our small, family business produces ceramic dielectric resonators which are individually made, by hand, with love and intention to absorb harmful emanations and rebroadcast the energy in neutral to beneficial ranges.

Charmion McKusick, Biomagnetic Research

(Good thing they rebroadcast bad waves into good waves, or they'd be violating some law)

But then again, people will believe what they will

Go back to the rubber ducky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230554)

The tip of the antenna (which is now encased in the phones) is the point of harshest radiation. If it was raised a few inches it would statistically decrease whatever the rates of harm (may) be. It's probably like pollution - it's hard to pin down causing any one person's specific illness (usually and not for extreme cases aka Love Canal).

Here is the survey used (1)

RJBeery (956252) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230702)

Question #1: Do you have brain cancer? (Yes/No)
[If respondent answers yes to question #1, then continue]
Question #2: Do you have a cell phone? (Yes/No)

The results were quite astonishing.

what? (4, Insightful)

drDugan (219551) | more than 4 years ago | (#32230922)

Science isn't inconclusive. There is statistically significant, or not. In this case, not.

Test another hypothesis or test again if data looks fishy.

give me liberty, or give me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32230978)

lol. just study if cellphone usage will kill you?
what about the in betweens? what about the possibility
that it can make you dumb? like drinking
to much alcohol?
so if it doesn't kill you, it's okay to use?
disclaimer: poster doesn't own cell phone but
drinks beer regularly.

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