Mobile phones, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease

I am sure many of you may have read the World Health Organization are warning mobile (cell) phone users about the possibility of your Nokia being carcinogenic.

“Lyon, France, May 31, 2011 ‐‐ The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.

Dr Jonathan Samet (University of Southern California, USA), overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”

Don’t worry help is at hand as they seem to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

“A study in mice suggests using cellphones may help prevent some of the brain-wasting effects of Alzheimer’s disease, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

After long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves such as those used in cell phones, mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s performed as well on memory and thinking skill tests as healthy mice, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The results were a major surprise and open the possibility of developing a noninvasive, drug-free treatment for Alzheimer’s, said lead author Gary Arendash of the University of South Florida.

He said he had expected cell phone exposure to increase the effects of dementia.

“Quite to the contrary, those mice were protected if the cell phone exposure was stared in early adulthood. Or if the cellphone exposure was started after they were already memory- impaired, it reversed that impairment,” Arendash said in a telephone interview.

Arendash’s team exposed the mice to electromagnetic waves equivalent to those emitted by a cellphone pressed against a human head for two hours daily over seven to nine months.

At the end of that time, they found cellphone exposure erased a build-up of beta amyloid, a protein that serves as a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s mice showed improvement and had reversal of their brain pathology, he said.

“It (the electromagnetic wave) prevents the aggregation of that bad protein of the brain,” Arendash said. “The findings are intriguing to us because they open up a whole new field in neuroscience, we believe, which is the long-term effects of electromagnetic fields on memory.”

Arendash said his team was modifying the experiment to see if they could produce faster results and begin testing humans.

Despite decades of research, there are few effective treatments and no cure for Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Many treatments that have shown promise in mice have had little effect on humans.

More than 35 million people globally will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in 2010, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

There has been recent controversy about whether electromagnetic waves from cellphones cause brain cancer.

Co-author Chuanhai Cao said the mice study is more evidence that long-term cellphone use is not harmful to the brain.”

It goes on to say: “Groups such as the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institutes of Health, have all concluded that scientific evidence to date does not support any adverse health effects associated with the use of cellphones.”

Perhaps the WHO can make its mind up soon especially as this report is in contradiction to other published reports. As Tom Chivers of the British Daily Telegraph remarks.

“So how good is the evidence? To be blunt: not very. There have been a number of studies done into the link between mobile phones and cancer. Most of them show no increase in risk. A few do show an increase, but – as the graph below, taken from this excellent blog on the Cancer Research UK, shows – the pooled estimate (second from right) shows that taken together, there is no increase: the blob is pretty much on the line. The studies which do show a statistically significant increase (the bar does not touch the line) could be down to mere chance. Read the CRUK blog for a fuller explanation.

“Why is the evidence so weak? After all, mobile phones have been in common use for 25 years and almost ubiquitous for at least a decade. I spoke to Ed Yong, the head of health information at Cancer Research UK, who had a few suggestions. One reason is that a lot of the studies have had specific methodological problems, he said. The most obvious is that “Researchers don’t have a good way of measuring mobile phone use.” That might not sound like a problem – just ask people – but, in long-term studies like this, you are asking people to remember their phone-using habits from a decade or longer ago. Furthermore, if you are asking people who have a brain tumour whether they used to use mobile phones a lot, it’s a reasonable bet that they will overstate their use. ”

Like much of the “science” coming out of the WHO seems to be based on thin evidence.

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1 Response to Mobile phones, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease

  1. JJ says:

    ‘…you are asking people to remember their phone-using habits from a decade or longer ago’.
    Isn’t this the criteria they use when compiling epidemiological studies? Never has there been two studies showing the same results.

    Great science – eh?

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