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WHO flip-flops, says phones have chance of inducing cancer

updated 05:25 pm EDT, Tue May 31, 2011

Taking cautious measures in reclassifying usage

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a new warning that cell phone usage could potentially increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Accordingly, WHO has reclassified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

During the past week, a Working Group of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) met in France to review past and current research into the relationship between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, as emitted by cell phones, and the risk of cancer. The 31 scientists concluded that long-term exposure could potentially cause an specific increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, as well as a benign tumor known as acoustic neuroma.

"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," said IARC Director Christopher Wild, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting. "

Based on this concern, the IARC has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. The IARC has classified it as a "Group 2B" risk. This puts exposure in the same category as low frequency magnetic waves and professions such as carpentry, dry cleaning, firefighting and printing.

The Working Group also noted that there was no statistical evidence linking cellphone usage to other forms of cancer.

A report summarizing details of the the IARC Working Group's conclusions will be published in the July issue of The Lancet Oncology shortly.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2007


    So, we have an official


    I'm guessing "Group 2B" stands for "To be" determined.

    Anyone have something definitive to say about the risk? No? Maybe later?

  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Mar 2009



    How is carpentry a health risk? Exposure to what? Most of the dangerous chemicals carpenters might use have been outlawed for years so where's the risk? If cellphones are the same health risk as carpenters, then I don't see the risk.

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2009



    The information about the risks has been available for quite some time, in peer-reviewed "real" form. Since the risk is fairly low, presumably they wanted to verify the results and talk strategy over before issuing any sort of statement. Unfortunately, the early paranoia about cell phones and brain cancer, which is very faint link, caused people to dismiss the problem. There is a definite link between heavy cell phone use and cancer -- but the really elevated risks are in the jaw and ear, not the brain. And if I recall correctly, you have to be talking for a very long time on a regular basis for it to be significant. (And, of course, text messaging and web browsing don't count because you aren't holding the phone up to your head when you do those things.)

    If you smoke, spend a lot of time around car exhaust, or eat a lot of processed foods, then you shouldn't bother worrying about your phone.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Clarence

    Via Facebook

    Joined: May 2011



    If you get cancer from your phone, Apple will tell you that you're holding it wrong.

    On the other hand, Droids do not cause cancer because they are from Google and Google does no harm.


  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    The Issue

    The real issue is that cellphone companies such as Nokia have been saying for many years that there is neither evidence nor risk which places them in the same place as the tobacco companies. As Nokia sues Apple to protect its intellectual property, will it now accept responsibility if the technology upon which it holds and asserts patents is carcinogenic?

  1. facebook_Timothy

    Via Facebook

    Joined: May 2011


    Enough With Causes

    When will Apple step up to the plate and design a cell phone which CURES cancer?!

  1. Cronocide

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2010



    "Quick everyone, our efforts in Brazil are boring. Someone get me in the news for something!"

    Comment buried. Show
  1. linlijunjj

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2011


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  1. danviento

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2005


    Too Late!

    Too many flip flops means most of us don't believe anything you say anymore...

  1. rcomeau

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2011


    Carpentry risks

    Going a bit off topic, but to reply to the question. I think the main risk with carpentry is inhaling wood dust. It can lodge in your lungs and becomes an irritant. As with other small fibrous things, this is known to be carcinogenic in that it can cause lung cancer. Wearing a mask while cutting and having a good dust removal system takes care of this. So a minor precaution reduces a minor risk.

    Back to phones... Using a headset more often is a minor precaution cost-wise and reduces a minor risk to a minuscule risk. Use the ALARA principle. As Low As Reasonably Achievable given social and economic constraints. Halving your risk for $1 is reasonable. Halving it again for $1000 may not be reasonable. Pick your personal risk/cost balance that works for you and don't worry.

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