We can't ignore the links between mobile phones and cancer like we did with tobacco, top scientists tell U.S. Congress
By Barry Wigmore
Last updated at 11:58 AM on 26th September 2008
Possible links between mobile phones and cancer cannot be ignored, scientists have warned (file photo)
Authorities must not make the same mistakes over possible links between mobile phones and brain cancer as they did with cigarettes and lung cancer, two top scientists have warned.
Mobile phones should carry a health warning like those on cigarette packets, a powerful US congressional committee has been told.
It took 50 years to get the tobacco industry to acknowledge the risks, and 70 years to remove lead from paint and petrol, they said.
Professor David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany told the committee: 'Society must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer where we waited until every "I" was dotted and "T" was crossed before warnings were issued.
'Precaution is warranted even in the absence of absolutely final evidence concerning the magnitude of the risk – especially for children.'
Dr Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute – one of the top American cancer research centres – agreed, saying: 'We must learn from our past to do a better job of interpreting evidence of potential risk.'
The committee heard that scientists are split over how dangerous mobile phones are to users.
But Dr Heberman said that most studies claiming there is no link between mobile phones and brain tumours are outdated. Many denying a link defined regular mobile phone use as once a week.
He added that most do not include enough long-term users because a brain tumour can take dozens of years to develop.
Both experts told the committee the brain cancer risk from mobile phone use is far greater for children than for adults. Dr Herberman produced a model showing how radiation from a mobile phone penetrates far deeper into the brain of a five-year-old than that of an adult.
The committee was shown a British research paper published this month by the Royal Society in London which found that teenagers who start using mobile phones before the age of 20 are five times more likely to develop brain cancer at the age of 29 than those who didn't use a mobile phone.
Professor Carpenter said: 'It's only on the side of the head where you use the cell phone.'
A study in Israel showed that heavy cell phone users were 50per cent more likely to develop a salivary gland tumour.
And another this year by Swedish cancer specialist Dr Lennart Hardell found that frequent cell phone users are twice as likely to develop a tumour on the nerves of the 'handset ear' than on the other ear.
Professor Carpenter said: 'This is a critical public health issue.'