Saturday, October 10, 2009

Childhood cancer survivors / French Senate Moves to Ban Mobile Phones in Schools / Cell Phones and Cancer: How To Stay Safe

Survivors of childhood cancer less likely to marry

"Our study pinpointed what aspects of the survivor experience likely contribute to altered marriage patterns: short stature, poor physical functioning and cognitive problems," said Kadan-Lottick.

"These conditions are known to be associated with certain chemotherapy and radiation exposures."

PHILADELPHIA – Childhood cancer survivors typically suffer from the long-term effects of cancer treatment on physical health, and results of a new study suggest that social implications also exist, which may affect their chance of an "I do" at the altar.

Survivors are 20 to 25 percent more likely "to never marry" compared with siblings and the general population, according to findings published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Many childhood cancer survivors still struggle to fully participate in our society because of the lasting cognitive and physical effects of their past cancer therapy," said lead researcher Nina S. Kadan-Lottick, M.D., M.S.P.H., assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center, and medical director of the Health Education, Research & Outcomes for Survivors (HEROS) Clinic for childhood cancer survivors.

Using data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, a retrospective cohort of more than 10,000 childhood cancer survivors (who are now adults) treated at 26 institutions around the country, Kadan-Lottick and colleagues evaluated the frequency of marriage and divorce rates among survivors compared with their sibling group and U.S. Census data. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study is an ongoing study funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers distributed surveys to participants to determine late outcomes of therapy, medical problems, subsequent cancers, psychosocial functioning and other aspects of survivorship, according to the researchers. They identified patients and treatment factors that may predict marital status, including psychosocial distress and neurocognitive impairment.

"Our study pinpointed what aspects of the survivor experience likely contribute to altered marriage patterns: short stature, poor physical functioning and cognitive problems," said Kadan-Lottick.

"These conditions are known to be associated with certain chemotherapy and radiation exposures."

Results showed that an estimated 42 percent of survivors were married, 7.3 percent were separated or divorced and 46 percent were never married.

Those who survived brain tumors were 50 percent more likely never to marry. Survivors of central nervous system tumors and leukemia had the greatest likelihood of never marrying, according to the study. Cranial radiation was the therapy most associated with not getting married.

Likelihood of divorce did not vary between the study populations.

"While it can be debated whether marriage is a desirable outcome, marriage is generally an expected developmental goal in our society to the extent that most U.S. adults are married by the age of 30. Our results suggest that survivors of childhood cancer need ongoing support even as they enter adulthood," Kadan-Lottick suggested.

Electra D. Paskett, Ph.D., who was not involved with the study, but is a deputy editor of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, said these findings shed light on the use of certain treatments and their long-term implications, which may affect a patient's physical appearance, thereby resulting in social effects.

"In other studies marital status has been found to be a significant predictor of survival. Will we see this among the childhood survivors as well?" asked Paskett, who is the Marion N. Rowley professor of cancer research in the Division of Epidemiology, and associate director for population sciences in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As a follow-up to this report, separate analyses are underway to better understand factors that contribute to other adult benchmarks among childhood cancer survivors, such as living independently, achieving higher education and income. The National Institutes of Health funded this study.

Submitted by Linda


French Senate Moves to Ban Mobile Phones in Schools

Peter Sayer, IDG News Service
Friday, October 09, 2009 9:00 AM PDT

Pupils at French primary schools and middle schools could be banned from using mobile phones in school under draft legislation approved Thursday by the French Senate.

The measure, proposed by the government, is just one clause of an enormous piece of environmental legislation that must still be debated by the National Assembly before it has any chance of becoming law.

The restriction on phones was the subject of vigorous debate on Wednesday, with one senator pushing for the ban to be limited to the classroom for older pupils, so that they could make calls in the corridors during breaks.

Many schools already ban the use of phones in their code of conduct.

Nevertheless, school teachers report that pupils regularly exchange text messages in the classroom, with some occasionally even making or answering calls there, making it difficult to maintain classroom discipline.

The proposed legislative ban, though, is for health rather than educational reasons, with the government wanting to apply the "principle of precaution" in the absence of guarantees that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones is perfectly safe for young children.

The government is in the middle of a long consultation of the effects on health of emissions from mobile phones and transmitter masts. The French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety is expected shortly to publish the latest in a series of regular reports for the government on the health and safety of mobile phones.


French Senate wants cellphone ban for kids  

Last Updated: Thursday, October 8, 2009 |
France's Senate wants to forbid children in primary and middle schools from using cellphones, amending a sweeping environment bill to include such a ban.

Senators added a line this week about cellphones to an article of the bill on exposure to communications equipment "posing a risk to health."

The measure would ban pupils up through about age 14 from using cellphones in school. It also approved a measure banning cellphone advertising that targets children under 14.

The changes would need approval by the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly. Both houses are dominated by President Nicolas Sarkozy's party UMP.

A poll published Tuesday says many French pupils use cellphones in class even when school rules forbid it.

An investigation by CBC's Marketplace last year found experts who raised concerns that excessive cellphone use was not safe for children. Studies have found cellphone signals penetrate farther in the brains of children.

In July 2008, Toronto's department of public health issued an advisory that teenagers and young children to limit their use of cellphones to avoid potential health risks.

The advisory — believed to be the first of its kind in Canada — warned that because of possible side effects from radio frequencies, children under eight should only use a cellphone in emergencies and teenagers should limit calls to less than 10 minutes.

"Teach them the ways to use a cellphone responsibly — to make shorter calls, to use other modes of communication; if it's possible, use a landline," said Loren Vanderlinden, a health department supervisor and the report's author.

The Marketplace survey of 1,084 kids between the ages of nine and 13 across Canada found that just under 40 per cent of kids had their own cellphone. The average age of when they got their first cellphone was 10.5.

Only 7.5 per cent said they used a headset with their cellphone.

With files from the Associated Press


Cell Phones and Cancer: How To Stay Safe

Dr. Andrew Weil

Founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

Posted: October 9, 2009 03:13 PM

Do cell phones cause cancer? The question has nagged researchers and users for the entire time - roughly the last 20 years - that these phones have been in common use.

The Food and Drug Administration's website states, "The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems." The FDA emphasizes that cell phones emit low-level, non-heating radiofrequency (RF) energy, rather than electron-stripping ionizing radiation, the type proven to permanently damage tissues and disrupt DNA.

But damage from RF energy may be cumulative over very long periods. Since cell phones show no signs of going away - indeed, most American children today face a lifetime of exposure - it's vital to focus closely on the most recently published studies, the ones that show the effects of longer-term exposure.

I am not persuaded that the FDA has done that sufficiently.

Recently, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for health-protective policies, has reported on key studies (including, crucially, several recent ones, published from 2007 to 2009) that link radiation from long-term cell phone use with increased risks of brain and salivary gland tumors, migraines and vertigo, as well as behavior problems in children, including hyperactivity. Among the findings cited:

  • An analysis of 25 earlier studies by two research groups showing a 50 to 90 percent increase in the risk of glioma (a brain tumor that is frequently malignant) on the side of the head favored for cell phone use in individuals who had used cell phones for more than 10 years. It also showed a 60 percent increase in acoustic neuromas, benign but troublesome tumors of a cranial nerve among long-term cell phone users
  • A 50 to 60 percent increased risk of salivary gland tumors among people who used cell phones frequently.
  • A 10 to 20 percent increased risk of hospitalization for migraine and vertigo among long-term cell phone users.
  • An 80 percent increased risk for emotional and hyperactivity problems among young children who use cell phones and whose mothers used cell phones during pregnancy.

All of this sounds very alarming, and it is not good news, but it is important to keep the numbers in perspective. When speaking in terms of a percentage increase in risk, bear in mind that if, for example, one person out of 100 is normally at risk of a brain tumor, a 100 percent increase in risk means that two people out of 100 would be at risk. It does not mean that as a cell phone user, you have a 100 percent chance of developing a brain tumor. The actual risk to a given individual indicated by these studies is quite small.

Still, I believe prudence is warranted.

The EWG report maintains that current U.S. government radiation standards are outdated. It noted that in 2008, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging member countries to develop lower radiation limits for cell phones - no such steps have been taken in the U.S. Here, particular concern is focused on the amount of radiation that could penetrate a child's softer, thinner skull (roughly twice the amount that could penetrate an adult skull) and that long-term cell phone use starting in childhood could pose even bigger risks than those already documented. Experts in the U.S. and Europe have advised limiting youngsters' cell phone use.

Fortunately, the smart response to this report is not necessarily to abandon or even curtail cell phone use, but rather to use them more carefully. The saving grace of cell phones is that, like all point-sources of radiation, they obey the inverse-square law: the strength of an electromagnetic field is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source point. This means that if you move the phone twice as far away from your head, you get one quarter the RF; move it three times farther, you get one-ninth the RF. So rather than clasping the phone to your ear (roughly one inch from your brain), use the phone in speaker mode (roughly 15 inches from your brain) and you'll drop the RF to your brain to a mere 1/225th of the against-the-ear dosage.

Aside from that, the EWG check list for safe cell phone use is similar the safety tips I've been recommending for some time:

  • Save long conversations for land-line phones.
  • Use a headset or the speakerphone setting, and keep the phone itself away from your body.
  • Find out how much radiofrequency energy your cell phone emits. This measurement is called the Specific Absorption Rate or SAR. The SAR permitted in the United States is 1.6 watts per kilogram. The FCC maintains a list of the SAR of various phone models; the EWG also has a simple tool to check your phone's emissions.

Specific Absorption Rate or SAR. The SAR permitted in the United States is 1.6 watts per kilogram. The FCC maintains a list of the SAR of various phone models; the EWG also has a simple tool to check your phone's emissions.

The EWG also contends that the U.S. government should require phones to be labeled with their radiation emissions at the point of sale. I agree.

Andrew Weil, M.D., is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the editorial director of Become a fan on Facebook and follow Dr. Weil on Twitter.

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