ABC World News (5/31, lead story, 3:10, Sawyer) reported, “An important new alert about the safety of cell phones and the possible risk of cancer, brain cancer in particular…comes from the World Health Organization.” NBC Nightly News (5/31, lead story, 3:10, Williams) reported, the WHO “statement labeling cell phones as a possible carcinogenic hazard comes from a panel of 31 scientists.”
According to the AP (6/1, Cheng), the statement was “issued in Lyon, France, on Tuesday by the International Agency for Research on Cancer” (IARC) after a “weeklong meeting” during which experts reviewed “possible links between cancer and the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar.” The IARC classified cellphones in “category 2B, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic” to humans. The assessment now “goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.”
The Wall Street Journal (6/1, Martin, Hobson, Subscription Publication) reports that the IARC working group did not conduct new research. Instead, the panel reviewed existing literature that focused on the health effects of radio frequency magnetic fields. Its findings are slated to be published July 1 in Lancet Oncology.
The New York Times (5/31, Parker-Pope, Barringer, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog noted that the panel’s decision to “classify cellphones as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ was based largely on epidemiological data showing an increased risk among heavy cellphone users of a rare type of brain tumor called a glioma.” Most “major medical groups,” including the National Cancer Institute, have “said the existing data on cellphones and health has been reassuring.” Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association “reported on research from the National Institutes of Health, which found that less than an hour of cellphone use can speed up brain activity in the area closest to the phone antenna.”
The Los Angeles Times (6/1, Roan, Gabler) reports that a 2010 study (pdf) published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found a “40% increase risk of gliomas for people who used a cellphone an average of 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period.”
Bloomberg News (5/31, Kresge) reported that the most recent research “considered dated to 2004, and exposure levels from handsets have dropped over time,” said IARC Working Group Chair Dr. Jonathan Samet from the University of Southern California. The age of the studies also means the participants “had used their phones for no more than 10 to 15 years, leaving open the question of the effect of longer-term exposure,” he noted. The CBS Evening News (5/31, lead story, 2:50, Smith) also covered the story.