As reported by the American-Republican, July 25, 2008.

Link Between Cell Phone Use and Cancer Raised in Memo, Many Skeptical

By Jim Moore

A memo issued this week by the director of a respected Pennsylvania cancer center has re-ignited the debate over cell phone use and cancer.

Research has yet to prove that electromagnetic energy from cell phones can cause brain tumors and other types of cancer, but the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute has taken the unprecedented step of publicly recommending precautions on cell phone use to faculty and staff.

Industry trade groups, the federal government, and even Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, who issued a memo Wednesday to 3,000 employees advising them to limit their cell phone use, all agree that nobody yet agrees on whether the health risk is real.

"Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said.

Industry trade group officials worried aloud that Herberman would prompt unnecessary alarm among the nation's 255 million cell phone users.

John Brown, 55, of Southbury took note of the news, but said "I'm just not sure they have any real proof yet."

Kris Foster, 34, of North Canaan, was visiting Waterbury with his wife Rebecca, but without the couple's cell-toting 13-year-old. "What can you do?" he shrugged.

Joshua E. Muscat of Penn State University, who has studied cancer and cell phones in other research projects partly funded by the cell phone industry, said there are at least a dozen studies that have found no link between cell phone use and cancer. He said a Swedish study cited by Herberman as support for his warning was biased and flawed.

Dr. Richard Everson, a medical oncologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, called the University of Pittsburgh's decision to publicly announce cell phone precautions "unusual," noting the recommendations were reported with little detail about the methods used to analyze data, or the basis for the findings.

"There is really no way to follow the group they assembled, what they did, how they considered this, whether they have any biases," said Everson, himself a cell phone user. He said he is more apt to follow the guidance of the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute. Both organizations have found no clear link between cell phone use and cancer or other health problems.

"I think the evidence that we have doesn't really provide much basis for concern," Everson said.

Brown, a hotel sales manager, said he will wait for something more definitive before changing his habits or suggesting that his wife and children do the same.

"We've kind of built these into our lifestyle," Brown said, his mobile phone in hand.

A study published this year in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that heavy cell phone users were 50 percent more likely to develop rare salivary gland tumors than non users. Dr. Siegal Sadetzki based her findings on case studies of 500 Israeli citizens who had developed the tumors and 1,300 healthy individuals, though she has conceded that her work is inconclusive, and further research is required.

Rebecca Foster said she uses her own phone "about 100 times a day," and her 13-year-old daughter has a phone of her own. Recalling a recent school outing, "the teachers wanted the kids' cell phone numbers so they know how to contact the kids," she said. Once an optional accessory, particularly for teens, now cell phones are "just expected."

Kris Foster was philosophical, he said he still eats bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches despite health warnings about bacon and tomatoes, and has no plans to reduce his cell phone use.

Booming Industry

Subscribers, 2000: 109.5 million

Subscribers, 2007: 255.4 million

Percentage of U.S. Population with Wireless Phones

2000: 38 percent

2007: 84 percent

Minutes of Use

2000: 533.8 billion

2007: 2.1 trillion

Text Messages Per Month

2000: 14.4 million

2007: 48.1 billion

Source: CTIA — The Wireless Association