Swedish study links cell phone study to tumors

Jennifer Nedeau (U-WIRE)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The phrase, “it’s almost too good to be true,” has yet again reared it’s ugly head, this time in the faces of millions of people around the world who use one of modern day’s most convenient miracles: the mobile phone.

A new Swedish study suggests that people who use a mobile phone for at least 10 years could increase their risk of developing a tumor along a nerve on the side of the head where they hold the phone, which could affect their hearing.

The three-year study by Ahlbom and Maria Feychting, professors at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, focused on 750 Swedes who had used mobile phones for at least 10 years.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, one of the researchers behind the preliminary study, Anders Ahlbom, said the results were surprising and need to be confirmed by more research.

“We are eagerly awaiting the results of other studies,” he said of the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

All 750 subjects had been using their mobile phones for at least 10 years, nearly all of them the early analog models, as opposed to the digital models currently on the market.

The wireless industry has always maintained that there is no link between mobile phones and cancer.

“At the time the study was conducted only analog mobile phones had been in use for more than 10 years and therefore we cannot determine if the results are confined to use of analog phones or if the results would be similar also after long-term use of digital phones,” the report said.

Nearly all the mobile phones sold by Verizon, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are digital, not analog.

“When the side of the head on which the phone was usually held was taken into consideration, we found that the risk of acoustic neuroma was almost four times higher on the same side as the phone was held,” Ahlbom and Feychting said

Under current law, the U.S. Federal Drug and Food Administration does not review the safety of radiation-emitting consumer products such as wireless phones before they can be sold.

“Our response to the research is that it’s interesting research, glad to have that kind of research being done, but it’s not definitive,” said FCC spokesman, Bruce Romano.

The FDA-FCC website says that, “the available scientific evidence does not show that any health problems are associated with using wireless phones.

There is no proof, however, that wireless phones are absolutely safe.” It states that wireless phones emit low levels of radiofrequency energy (RF) while being used and exposure to low level RF causes no known adverse health effects.

The site information was last updated in July of 2003. Romano said that it is an excellent idea to update the website with regard to any confirmed results in the Swedish study.

“People who are more expert than us need to look at that study and makes sure its points are true. I look forward to working with Health and Safety Department to do further research on this,” Romano said.

Currently, the U.S. government is sponsoring a $15 million, five-year study on the possible health effects of cell phone radiation in laboratory rats and mice.

The study, funded by the European Union, is still waiting for outside confirmation. However, it has revived concerns over whether using mobile phones is harmful to a person’s health.

Jamie Gustafson, a sophomore at the George Washington University, said that she uses her Verizon Wireless phone about three to five times a day, from ten to twenty minutes for each call.

She said does not take the study very seriously, but may consider using her “hands free set” more often.

“I don’t feel like I use it as frequently as maybe the tests have shown. They are always saying that “x” causes cancer in lab rats, but it’s usually uses ungodly amounts of  radiation in the testing,” she said.

According to the Acoustin Neuroma Association in Atlanta, Georgia, the tumor, which can affect hearing, occurs in less than one adult per 100,000 people annually. They said that the tumor pushes on the surface of the brain, but doesn’t grow into the brain itself.

Romano said that he had not received or heard of any calls from consumers about the results of the study.