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Researcher: Cell phones may give you brain cancer, so stop using them now


The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday: Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer.

The warning from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is contrary to numerous studies that don't find a link between cancer and cell phone use, and a public lack of worry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Herberman is basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children.

In the memo he sent to about 3,000 faculty and staff Wednesday, he says children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing.

Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, he says. He even warns against using cell phones in public places like a bus because it exposes others to the phone's electromagnetic fields.

Actually, people shouldn't be using cell phones in confined public spaces like buses out of common courtesy, never mind the medical risk that lambert might be sitting next to you and go for your throat, maddened beyond endurance as you yammer about your trade secrets or sex life or anal leakage issues or whatever. "Hi, I'm on the train!" This means you, Ashley.

A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university's center for environmental oncology.

"The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain," she said in an interview from her cell phone while using the hands-free speaker phone as recommended. "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe."

Obviously, another reason for universal health care. Why?

Classic case of privatized profits, socialized risk. Right now, we're in the midst of a giant medical experiment conducted on the brain tissues of the American people by the telcos. The telcos are making the profit; but the people who might get brain cancer are taking the risks. That risk shouldn't be theirs alone to bear.

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Actually, send it all to Lambert and we'll divvy it up. Having too much money causes all kinds of problems, from baldness to cancer to sagging boobs and buttocks and if you have one it makes your penis wither up and fall off. I am willing to take on all of that risk for you, and Lambert is my chosen vehicle for that deliverance.

I have no data to support my claims, but I am really, really certain it may be true. Who needs data anyway, better safe than sorry say I:

A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university's center for environmental oncology.

"The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain," she said in an interview from her cell phone while using the hands-free speaker phone as recommended. "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe."

The question is, do you want to play Russian roulette with your ass? Cash, small used bills, is always best.

Jesus X. Crutch's picture
Submitted by Jesus X. Crutch on

I've been hearing cautionary reports like this for years, if there's been any increase in the incidence of brain tumors, for instance, I'm unaware of it. Our enviroments are saturated with radience from across the electromagnetic spectum, as I write my laptop is perched scant fractions of an inch above my gonads, who's to say they aren't being wi-fried.
My issue with cell phones is mostly about courtesy and social interaction. Folks with cell phones seem almost to be attached to them, like bionic enhancements designed to hasten assimilation into the collective. And always, incoming calls on the cell must be immediately attended to, the cell owner is practically owned by the connection.
The news of Robert Novak's wreckless driving today made me wonder if he'd been talking on a cell phone and got distracted at the wrong time, I've seen a lot of that kind of behavior on the street and I've had some close calls because of it.
Imagine a world without cell phones, you really don't have to be very old to do so. How badly would these devices be missed if they weren't around anymore? Myself, I've never had or wanted one, I'm convinced that many people would have symptoms of withdrawal if they couldn't have their cell phones.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

make you drive worse than if you're drunk.

And I might be on the same road.

Hang up and drive, already!

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

OxyCon's picture
Submitted by OxyCon on

We all know that as a Hillary supporter, I hate black people, so allow me to be a sexist pig too. I live in a heavily populated area in the Philly burbs, and every single time there is an out of control car coming at me, there is a middle aged to young aged woman driving(?) her car with the right hand on the wheel, while the left hand is holding the phone and the jaws are flapping.
It's a really big pet peeve for me. Now I know that women are really great multitaskers, having been married to a fantastic person and watching her in action, but do you think you might be able to spring a few bucks for a bluetooth (which might, btw, save your brain from tumors?
And speaking about the bluetooth, the other day my 17 year old son is on the phone yukking it up, a sight I never seen before and the next thing I know, three hours have gone by. The next night, same thing. So, having heard about the tumors from Johnny Cochrane's widow, we went to RadioShack and got him a bluetooth. I'm not, and never will be a phone person.

Submitted by jawbone on

that the driver is talking on a cellphone. Sometimes, when a driver has been inexplicably erratic, slowing down, then speeding up for example, when I pass the car I can sometimes see the person is talking to someone--and if there's no passenger, it's probably a headset. Driving while calling is not a good idea.

The major problem, from what I've learned of the research on cellphone usage and driving, is not that one hand is holding the phone, but the brain for some reason pays more attention to a conversation on the phone than to the environment around the brain's human. The brain is focused more on the conversation, and that is what leads to accidents.

Part of this is that the person being conversed with is not aware at all of the situation around the person in the car using the cellphone. A passenger in the car is usually also aware that traffic is tightening, slowing down, etc., etc., and then will actually assist the driver in paying attention to road conditions.

So, I actually like that someone with their hand up to their ear gives me at least some warning that their driving abiliity is probably being impaired.

I'm all for no talking on cellphones while driving. Period. Emergency? Better really be one. Otherwise, pull over and make the call.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

We've just banned the use of cell phones while driving here in CA, except of course we really didn't. What you can't do now is talk on the phone with it held up to your ear because that is really, really bad. Still allowed, however, is talking with an earpiece, either tethered or remote, and by speaker.

Stunningly to me, texting is also allowed. The claimed differential for allowing speakerphone or earpiece conversations is that they let you keep both hands on the wheel, while holding the phone to your ear leaves only one. Texting, however, not only requires one hand if you concentrate really, really hard on holding the phone while thumbing in the letters, and unless you've totally memorized the keyboard like a touch-typist you need to keep looking at the phone while you type. An incoming message, moreover, can only be understood by taking your eyes off the road to read it. So much safer, texting, our legistators and governor decided, but I cannot understand why.

Something like 90% of conversation is carried by non-verbal cues. When those are not available, as with a phone conversation, we are forced to pay much closer attention to what is being said, to the verbal component, than we otherwise would. It is that need to intently focus that creates a distraction and diminishes our ability to pay attention to our driving, not whether we hold the phone itself to our ear or use it a remote. If the desire is to remove distractions, all phone conversations should be banned.

But the issue is more complex even than that. Turns out, cell phones account for – on average – less than 10% of all significant distractions for drivers. Somewhere I have that data, I tracked it down when the California ban was being developed, and I’ll post it in a followup. For the moment though, please just accept my memory, and believe that banning phone-held conversations will do very little to reduce accidents. In fact, I was unable at the time to find any scientific data that showed any beneficial effects of cellphone restrictions in terms of measurable concrete outcomes – fewer accidents, fewer injuries, reduced mortality. If anyone has such a study outcome available, I’d be very interested.

I see this cellphone while driving issue as yet another focus on the trivial as a means of making government regulation appear effective but without actually doing anything of meaningful value. Cell phone distractions, all tolled, are less that 10% of all driving distractions; banning just one fragment of them will at best reduce accidents by a miniscule fraction. This is the same sort of group frenzy dominance and regulatory fervor that led to banning smoking in public, even though there are no reliable data conclusively showing negative effects from second-hand smoke.

Smokers themselves do not cost society more than non-smokers, since the diseases they contract from smoking generally kill them earlier and quicker than those developed by non-smokers. In a rational, market-based society smokers would be subsidized, since their otherwise harmless and surely personal choice habit saves society a considerable amount of money in reduced Medicare costs.

Another of these fallacies is evident with airport security rules, where small amounts of liquid are banned based on a totally false belief that terrorists could concoct actual explosives in a airplane bathroom sink from common ingredients. Contrariwise, boxcutters – the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers – are now allowed as carry-on.

Scissors and pocketknives are banned, as are tweezers and nailclippers (nailclippers!) but sharpened pencils – a very lethal weapon – are just fine. Regulation for the sake of the exercise itself, a making believe that we are doing something worthwhile when all we are really accomplishing is increased hassle and inconvenience, somehow appeals to the human psyche.

Ritual is more important than substance, in a magical-thinking world.

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

You can't say that out loud!
"Ritual is more important than substance, in a magical-thinking world."

"Smokers themselves do not cost society more than non-smokers"--well except for that whole killing people with secondhand smoke thing, right?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

links to reproduced and validated outcomes-based data in humans, please, and not epidemiological projections of rat data.

Smoking a pack a day is only slightly worse for your health than living in LA, and while I might actually be persuaded on esthetic principles to outlaw and disassemble Greater Los Angeles the overall societal cost is likely greater than the gain.

Second hand cigarette smoke as a dangerous substance and a public health concern is a fallacy. Smokers hurt themselves, but the over all cost/benefit ratio actually is favorable for society. The whole campaign is a sham, just one more propaganda campaign intended to distract public attention from our real problems.

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

Since you were making the original claim?

Can you link us to reputable studies that prove secondhand smoke doesn't hurt others? Because I understand what you are saying here and would be interested in seeing some studies that really disproved that claim. There has been a lot of press and studies confirming it, I thought. Isn't the danger of secondhand smoke the whole legal and medical rationale for banning smoking in much of the country?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

reputable studies that prove secondhand smoke doesn’t hurt others?
is a request to prove a negative. Science doesn't work that way, absence of evidence not equivalent to evidence of absence.

There has been a lot of press and studies confirming it, I thought.
A lot of press, for sure, but we all know what that's worth eh? Studies? Not so much, and structured in such a way that they reach the desired conclusion which in turn is sensationalized far out of proportion to real worth.

Isn’t the danger of secondhand smoke the whole legal and medical rationale for banning smoking in much of the country?
Yeppers, at least the public reason. The real reason is that Americans require demons, the dark side of our religious heritage, something or someone to blame for the ills that befall us. Based on misinterpretation and biased value judgments, the anti-smoking crusade caught fire (sorry) and took off in the public imagination without the need for real substantive proof. "Everyone knows" that secondhand smoke is teh dangerous just like everyone knows that blacks are lazy and gays are corrupting the nation's youth and Democrats are soft on national defense.

"Everyone knows" always makes my ass twitch. Smoking does increase the chance of developing some diseases in some people. Therefore, since the body is God's temple and all, those who do it harm are violating God's will and/or are evil and must be forced into good behavior or punished - or both if there's any way to do it. That smoking is only slightly more hazardous to your health than living in the smog-filled LA basin doesn't register as a comparator, because while smoking is easily identified as an individual act that the group can gang up on, where we live is seen as a communal act not subject to group moral condemnation.

That is the same dynamic that lets us damn gays and blacks and Mexicans as individual actors that somehow, based on no actual evidence, can be painted as threatening to the very fabric of society and the safety of the nation but allows us collectively to remain comfortable with 75 million people either not having any access to basic health care or so under-insured they cannot afford to have basic care performed and leaves us unconcerned that 13 million children in the richest nation on Earth are trapped in abject poverty and go hungry on a daily basis. We are all up on that second-hand smoke, though.

We like our demons to be something we can point to, cigarettes or black skin or cellphones. Collective sin? We don't care for that so much, requires a long hard look in the mirror and really, who has the time?

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

" a request to prove a negative. Science doesn’t work that way, absence of evidence not equivalent to evidence of absence."

You've said this before but I don't agree. Science disproves many things. A negative--i.e. that a correlation does NOT exist--CAN be proved. That is one of the major reasons people DO scientific experiments.

Your other point here, absence of evidence is not=to evidence of absence--I agree with--and good scientific experiments try to avoid this.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

even among many scientists. See here.

A negative outcome, proof absolute that second-hand cigarette smoke causes no harm, can only be claimed when all possible experiments have been conducted and all possible data has been analyzed.

A study of sufficient size to prove that second-hand cigarette smoke is always harmless would require enrolling all of the people who have ever lived and all who will ever live. It is undoable.

That is why sound scientific experiments are designed to prove that an association does exist. On completion, to be sure, many if not most will fail to prove the association, but that is not the same as proving that no association exists.

Hypotheses are often discarded when experimental outcomes do not support them, but again that is not the same as saying they are disproved even though that term is often employed; it is only that proof in their favor is absent. Established hypotheses are not disproven by an absence of scientific proof, indeed they often are clung to for generations with nothing at all to support them; they are only discarded when a new and different theory is developed for which a persuasive body of positive evidence is established.

Scientists generally dislike using the term "disproven" about discarded theories for both logical and esthetic reasons, especially when talking about theories of our own; we prefer to use "outmoded" or "archaic" instead, and the least said about them the better. Otherwise, we'd all have to admit that nearly everything we learned and taught a generation ago was total crap; hard on the ego, that.

Thus, the assertion that second-hand cigarette smoke constitutes a legitimate public health concern based on documentable injury to innocent people is a testable one, but the assertion that no association exists between second-hand smoke and health is not. The burden of proof must always be laid upon testable assertions.

Now let me step off my argumentative high horse for a moment and concede that there are a great many flawed studies imperfectly suggesting that an association exists between second-hand smoke and impaired health, even perhaps mortality. Societally, we have agreed through a non-rigorous sociological process (I would argue sociopathological) that multiple flawed assertions can be combined to make a proven case. Where there is smoke, there must be fire?

It should be allowed that the conclusion may be right; perhaps second-hand smoke does cause some negative impact on health and even lead to premature death. But in comparison to real public health issues, like drunk driving or poverty-related nutritional deficits or lack of prenatal care or exposure to environmental toxins like lead paint or smog, never mind the great killer of children worldwide - malaria - second-hand smoke effects are at the very most next to trivial.

IIRC, for instance, the best data in Scotland claimed that total elimination of second-hand smoke exposure would save up to 800 lives per year in a nation of 5,000,000 and the full effect would take 20 years to manifest. While not zero, this number must be put in proportion to overall health and life expectancy issues in Scotland which has the highest rate of overall mortality in Western Europe (excepting Portugal), a 12% greater mortality rate than England and Wales. This higher mortality is due entirely to poor nutrition subsequent to low income and drug and alcohol abuse consequent to dispair over chronic, unremitting unemployment.

Second-hand smoke, however, is an easier nut to crack than the imbedded result of 50 years of systematic industrial infrastructure destruction on top of 400 years of unrelenting general economic exploitation.

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

If you don't write fiction in RL, perhaps you should. (not a snark)

"The real reason is that Americans require demons, the dark side of our religious heritage, something or someone to blame for the ills that befall us."

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

companies had to do--that seemed at least somewhat based on
"group moral condemnation."

Please, I understand you are just using examples but the everyone understands examples are a little harsh if some people here are those things...

You make many good points...sad about the kids--although protecting them was part of the reason about shs smoke. But yes, I too wish that we could help more. Some states do and many individuals do, but the kids need more, excellent point.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

and one hopes adult enough to accept absurdities when they are employed as examples of collective unreasoning prejudice. If you prefer, please delete all of them and substitute "Everyone knows that all men are paternalistic, patriarchial, abusive and exploitive." Better?