Term Paper: Cell Phone and Cancer

Pages: 9 (2539 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Disease  ·  Buy This Paper

Cell Phones and Cancer

In today's innovative era of technological breakthroughs, we enjoy many benefits of technology, which give us the power to get things done faster, enjoy greater convenience, and have access to wonderful tools that improve all areas of life (Siepmann, 2004). However, there are many concerns that we are paying a price for these benefits -- perhaps in the form of cancer. Major concerns arise from the fact that we are increasingly exposed to logarithmically increasing non-ionizing radiation from wireless systems, cell phones, satellite transmissions, electricity transmission, and other products. This paper aims to present a solid argument that cell phones, in particular, may be a cause of cancer.

Researchers suggest that high power electrical distribution lines may increase the incidence of certain cancers (Siepmann, 2004). According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) (1990): "In conclusion, the several studies showing leukemia, lymphoma and cancer of the nervous system in children exposed to magnetic fields from residential 60 Hz electrical power distribution systems, supported by similar findings in adults in several occupational studies also involving electrical power frequency exposures, show a consistent pattern of response that suggests, but does not prove, a causal link. Frequency components higher than 60 Hz cannot be ruled out as contributing factors. Evidence from a large number of biological test systems shows that these fields induce biological effects that are consistent with several possible mechanisms of carcinogenesis."

This situation suggests the need to continue to evaluate the information from ongoing research and to further evaluate the mechanisms of carcinogenic action and the characteristics of exposure that cause these effects.

Medscape (2000) review article concludes (Siepmann, 2004): "Taken together, the WTR research findings are not conclusive with respect to an increased risk of brain cancer or benign tumors associated with wireless phone usage. Indeed, these findings could be chance occurrences and should be confirmed. Alternatively, these findings could be early indications of a serious public health problem; thus, an immediate and focused follow-up is clearly necessary."

As new technologies become indispensable economically and politically, it is important that we take the time to examine what type of negative effects they may have on our health (Siepmann, 2004). By studying situations where the radiation is more intense and localized such as in cell phones, we can get a clearer picture of what the future may hold.

Debate Over Cell Phones recent report from the General Accounting Office found that federal agencies often fail to give the latest information and research on cell phone radiation to consumers, and, in many cases, what they do provide is too technical for the average consumer to fully understand.

According to Dr. Ted Schwartz, a neurosurgeon from New York Presbyterian Hospital: "There are currently over one hundred million cell phone users in this country. Along with the increase of cell phone usage, there has been an increase in the number of brain tumors diagnosed each year in the United States. Since cell phones emit electromagnetic energy, which in certain circumstances has been linked with causing tumors, and since the cell phones are held directly against the head, many people fear that the two statistics might be linked."

It would be a shame to wait until it is too late to determine what should be done about cell phone use. In 20 years, it is possible that an epidemic of brain cancer will emerge across the world causing millions to die due to the increase in cell phone usage that began in the 1990's (Yi, 2001).

According to Yi (2000): "The increasing demands of society make these devices virtually a necessity. Cell phones are no longer just for the rich and elite. Many affordable plans today offer more than 1,000 minutes per month. With phone prices and monthly minutes becoming less expensive, cell phone use has skyrocketed over the past decade. Despite the public's enthusiastic acceptance of cell phones, their safety remains uncertain."

Moses Kim, an M.D./Ph. D. student at the University of California, San Francisco, argues that cell phone radiation does not cause damage to the brain. "These waves are [low energy] waves, so hypothetically, they should not harm the body in any way." However, Kim notes that there is a possibility for cellular damage. "The low energy waves could, in theory, cause damage to cells by destroying protein and DNA structures."

Kim also points out that radiation can result in cancer (Yi, 2001). "Prolonged exposure to [low energy] waves has been a concern due to past observations of high incidence of brain tumors in children living under power wires." Just how these waves affect cells is unknown, but a slight change in DNA can cause cancer. "Most cancer arises due to DNA damage," according to Kim, "for example, sunlight causes DNA damage in skin cells, giving rise to skin cancer."

However, recent studies have proposed that cell phone use does not cause cancer.

Some researchers argue that the link between cell phones and cancer is nonexistent (Kolata, 2000). Two of the most comprehensive studies to date on the relationship between cell phones and brain tumors reveal that cell-phone users are no more likely than anyone else to develop benign tumors or malignant brain cancers.

One study, supported by the National Cancer Institute, matched a similar study, which was paid for by the cell phone industry and the federal government (Kolata, 2000). Scientists and public health experts hoped that the results would diminish the fears of the public that cell phones can cause brain cancer, which affects 16,500 Americans per year.

Dr. Peter Inskip, a researcher for the cancer institute, concluded (Kolata, 2000): "Based on the published evidence to date, I don't think there's any evidence that cell phones cause cancer," Dr. Inskip said. Scientists said a study from Denmark, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, provided similar results. Danish researchers identified thousands of cell-phone users from telephone company records, and then examined medical records to examine if any link existed between use of the device and development of brain cancers. None were found.

Public health scientist George Carlo and Martin Schram (2000) discuss the connection between cell phones and brain cancer in their book, "Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age." The book asserts that cell phones were not adequately tested for safety before they were marketed for sale, even though numerous studies linked radio frequency radiation (which is emitted by cell phones) with brain tumors, lymphoma and leukemia. Modern research indicates cell phone users may have a greater risk of brain cancer, and that emissions from the phones can damage the blood brain barrier and cause micronuclei in cells, small areas of genetic damage that are a sign of cancer.

The interesting part of the book is that the authors discuss why the government and ultimately the public ignore the link between cell phones and cancer. "The industry," they write (p. 47), "had teamed up with the government agency that was regulating it (the Food and Drug Administration) to foil the media's effort to inform the public...." As for the FDA, the authors refer to it as "the people's myopic watchdog" who "never barked (p. 47)."

Despite these reports, the FDA states that some studies suggest acceleration in cancer growth due to the low level radiation of cell phones is a possibility (Yi, 2001). Dr. George Carlo, a public health researcher hired by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), suggests that radio frequency radiation causes genetic damage to the blood and increases the chance of brain tumors among cell phone users. Despite these findings, the CTIA disavowed his conclusions after a fellow researchers claimed the results were biased.

Due to inconclusive studies on long-term use, it is impossible to formulate a definite conclusion (Yi, 2001). Dennis Shin, a sales manager at E-Phones, believes that more people are concerned about cell phone radiation. "Mobile phone radiation hadn't been an issue until last year due to a special that aired on 20/20," said Shin (Yi, 2001), "Customers casually ask if I had 'heard' about possible risks." Still, even though customers are aware of the risks, phone sales continue to increase.

Experts advise that studies that say there are no proven inks between cancer and cell phones are not the definitive answer to the debate on the health effects of cell phone use (Dwyer, 2000). The cell phone industry is still in its early stages and data on health claims related to digital cell phone use is very limited.

There are many reasons that current research is limited. The journal article acknowledged that newer, digital phones might have a different effect on biological tissue than analog cell phones. For the most part, analog phones are now outdated technology, although many early research studies were based on them. In addition, it is important to note that most solid brain tumors take 10 to 15 years to develop, so the long-term health effect of cell phones may not be known for several years (Dwyer, 2000).

Research studies… [END OF PREVIEW]

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