WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

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WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Plasma Man » Tue May 31, 2011 7:02 pm UTC

Original story from the BBC. Text in spoiler.
Spoiler:
Mobiles 'may cause brain cancer'
By James Gallagher, Health reporter, BBC News

The World Health Organization's cancer research agency says mobile phones are "possibly carcinogenic".

A review of evidence suggests an increased risk of a malignant type of brain cancer cannot be ruled out.

However, any link is not certain - they concluded that it was "not clearly established that it does cause cancer in humans".

A cancer charity said the evidence was too weak to draw strong conclusions from.

A group of 31 experts has been meeting in Lyon, France, to review human evidence coming from epidemiological studies.

They said they looked at all relevant human studies of people using mobile phones and exposure to electromagnetic fields in their workplace.

The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) can give mobile phones one of five scientific labels: carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic, possibly carcinogenic, not classifiable or not carcinogenic.

It concluded that mobiles should be rated as "possibly carcinogenic" because of a possible link with a type of brain cancer - glioma.

Ed Yong, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "The WHO's verdict means that there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer but it is too weak to draw strong conclusions from.

"The vast majority of existing studies have not found a link between phones and cancer, and if such a link exists, it is unlikely to be a large one.

"The risk of brain cancer is similar in people who use mobile phones compared to those who don't, and rates of this cancer have not gone up in recent years despite a dramatic rise in phone use during the 1980s.

"However, not enough is known to totally rule out a risk, and there has been very little research on the long-term effects of using phones."

The WHO estimated that there are five billion mobile phone subscriptions globally.

Christopher Wild, director of the IARC, said: "Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings it is important that additional research be conducted into the long term, heavy use of mobile phones.

"Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands free devices or texting."

What else is labelled possibly carcinogenic?
Car exhausts
Lead
Coffee
Dry cleaning
Summary: The WHO have released a review stating that mobiles should be rated as "possibly carcinogenic" because of a possible link with a type of brain cancer, but it is not clearly established that it does cause cancer in humans.

The review seems to be fairly sensible, but I'm willing to bet that the wider reporting of it won't be. Buy stock in tinfoil hat and electromagenetic-absorbing crystal companies now!
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby BlackSails » Tue May 31, 2011 7:22 pm UTC

I also bet that they cant prove that water doesnt cause cancer.

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Heisenberg » Tue May 31, 2011 7:27 pm UTC

H2O? That's what caused the Fukishima Nuclear Explodathon!

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Chen » Tue May 31, 2011 7:30 pm UTC

Plasma Man wrote:What else is labelled possibly carcinogenic?
Car exhausts
Lead
Coffee
Dry cleaning


Well I'll in terms of carcinogens I'm ok treating my cell phone the same way I do my coffee or my dry cleaning.

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Radical_Initiator » Tue May 31, 2011 7:31 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:H2O? That's what caused the Fukishima Nuclear Explodathon!


Explodathon sounds like it needs to become one of those fake months you hear about in commercials, like "Spocktober" or "Groovember".

Edit: Make it a month of Michael Bay movies on Spike. "This Explodathon, we're bringing you ... Tits! Ass! Exploding Tits! Tits that act as a binary detonator for a two-stage assplosion!"


Chen wrote:[quote="Plasma Man]
What else is labelled possibly carcinogenic?
Car exhausts
Lead
Coffee
Dry cleaning


Well I'll in terms of carcinogens I'm ok treating my cell phone the same way I do my coffee or my dry cleaning.
[/quote]


Yes, but if you treat your cell phone the same way you do your lead, you'll find that either cell phones really do cause cancer, or wearing a vest made of cell phones into an X-ray was not such a good idea.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Aaeriele » Tue May 31, 2011 7:47 pm UTC

This just in, negatives are hard to prove
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Tue May 31, 2011 8:16 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:I also bet that they cant prove that water doesnt cause cancer.

If all your food and drink are completely dehydrated, tumors are sure to die. Perhaps water is not carcinogenic, but it sure is an enabler!

/I'm sorry...that was the best I could come up with

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Dauric » Tue May 31, 2011 8:32 pm UTC

Sheikh al-Majaneen wrote:
BlackSails wrote:I also bet that they cant prove that water doesnt cause cancer.

If all your food and drink are completely dehydrated, tumors are sure to die. Perhaps water is not carcinogenic, but it sure is an enabler!

/I'm sorry...that was the best I could come up with


Can always link to Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 31, 2011 10:02 pm UTC

Radical_Initiator wrote:Yes, but if you treat your cell phone the same way you do your lead, you'll find that either cell phones really do cause cancer
By making sure not to accidentally eat cell phones, I'll find that they cause cancer?
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Dauric » Tue May 31, 2011 10:06 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Radical_Initiator wrote:Yes, but if you treat your cell phone the same way you do your lead, you'll find that either cell phones really do cause cancer
By making sure not to accidentally eat cell phones, I'll find that they cause cancer?

But they're so tasty!
Finely ground cell-phone is a zesty addition to any meal.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 31, 2011 10:13 pm UTC

The funny thing is like, 3/4ths of the worlds population uses cellphones. Extracting from this number those who don't use cellphones and their brain cancer rates vs. those that do is a lesson in statistical absurdity. Furthermore, excessive cellphone use in populated areas has a pretty high risk factor in terms of driving injuries/death, so... Yeah, it's probably more dangerous to use cellphones while driving/walking that even bothering to worry about brain cancer.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:00 am UTC

Chen wrote:
Plasma Man wrote:What else is labelled possibly carcinogenic?
Car exhausts
Lead
Coffee
Dry cleaning


Well I'll in terms of carcinogens I'm ok treating my cell phone the same way I do my coffee or my dry cleaning.


Drinking 6+ Cups of Coffee per day is linked to a reduction in prostate cancer.

http://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/ne ... ancer-risk

So... can you be a carcinogen for one kind of cancer while reducing your risk of another kind?
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:31 am UTC

Sure, why not. It's not like all cancers are caused by the same things.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:53 am UTC

But... but... cell phone radiation isn't strong enough to cause cancer. It's not ionizing. Any effects (like the "talking over 30 minutes a day" group) are most likely caused by confounding variables.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Mallich » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:05 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:But... but... cell phone radiation isn't strong enough to cause cancer. It's not ionizing. Any effects (like the "talking over 30 minutes a day" group) are most likely caused by confounding variables.
You mean the sort of confounding variables that would make an organisation say something like, "Gee, because of these hard-to-isolate variables confusing the results we don't know if cell phones are carcinogenic or not"?

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby buddy431 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:32 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The funny thing is like, 3/4ths of the worlds population uses cellphones. Extracting from this number those who don't use cellphones and their brain cancer rates vs. those that do is a lesson in statistical absurdity. Furthermore, excessive cellphone use in populated areas has a pretty high risk factor in terms of driving injuries/death, so... Yeah, it's probably more dangerous to use cellphones while driving/walking that even bothering to worry about brain cancer.


It's no more of a statistical absurdity than any other large study looking for correlations between different lifestyle choices and diseases. Yes, there are confounding factors. These can be controlled by carefully designed experiments with large sample sizes. What's interesting is that most cellphone-cancer studies have not found any correlation. But the WHO, by looking at multiple studies, could find a modest, but significant correlation between a certain small subset of the population (those who use cellphones a lot) and a certain type of cancer. At this point, you're right, the correlation is tentative; the WHO could not rule out bias , random chance, or confounding factors in the study. But people who do these studies are trained in statistics. They do know how to properly conduct experiments, and how to draw statistically significant results from them. Just because the results are hard to obtain doesn't mean they aren't worth studying.

But yeah,I agree with you about the dangers of cell-phones being mostly in the distraction they cause. A modest increase among a limited population in an uncommon type of cancer? Big whoop.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:34 am UTC

You realize that the study was based on self reported cellphone usage, ya?
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:45 am UTC

Dauric wrote:But they're so tasty!
Finely ground cell-phone is a zesty addition to any meal.
People like you keep skewing the results in these large-scale observational studies and ruining them for everyone :(

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Maurog » Wed Jun 01, 2011 5:09 am UTC

Are there any conclusive studies on whether cell phones increase penis size?

I want to see the headline "Mobiles 'may increase penis size', study finds."
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jun 01, 2011 5:10 am UTC

Mallich wrote:You mean the sort of confounding variables that would make an organisation say something like, "Gee, because of these hard-to-isolate variables confusing the results we don't know if cell phones are carcinogenic or not"?
If there is a factor which causes both significant cell phone conversation and cancer (i.e. a confounding variable), then cell phones are not carcinogenic- the third factor is. Not knowing whether or not cell phone usage tells you anything about cancer risk is different from knowing whether or not cell phone usage modifies your cancer risk- someone under the influence of the third factor will have elevated risk regardless of whether or not they talk on their cell phone.

buddy431 wrote:But people who do these studies are trained in statistics. They do know how to properly conduct experiments, and how to draw statistically significant results from them.
It is dangerous to assume others are competent at interpreting statistics.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby buddy431 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 5:38 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
buddy431 wrote:But people who do these studies are trained in statistics. They do know how to properly conduct experiments, and how to draw statistically significant results from them.
It is dangerous to assume others are competent at interpreting statistics.


You know, I do tend to trust that the people at the WHO who are paid to do this type of meta-analysis are competent in what they do. If this was some hack on the internet (i.e. you or me) I wouldn't look at their work twice. But this is f****** WHO here. If you don't believe their analysis, you can look at what studies they looked at, here. I'll admit that I have not reviewed their analysis. That's because I trust that the WHO hires competent people to assess cancer risks. And they said that they have found a tentative correlation between a subset of cellphone users and a certain type of cancer. They admit that this correlation is "limited", that is
A positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent
and cancer for which a causal interpretation is considered by the Working Group to be credible, but chance, bias or
confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence

Do you have a specific problem with the WHO's analysis, or do you just like degenerating people who try to use statistics to make sense of the world around them?
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Solt » Wed Jun 01, 2011 9:56 am UTC

buddy431 wrote:What's interesting is that most cellphone-cancer studies have not found any correlation.


If this statement alone were true, the issue could be dropped right now. The problem is that studies that look at long-term heavy user populations DO tend to find links, albeit weak ones. Short term studies do not. The other problem is that cancer takes a looong time to manifest across huge populations in a way that we will notice. If you start smoking when you are 12, you won't get lung cancer until your 40s or 50s. Cell phones have only been in use for 10-15 years. We can't be sure until we are 50 or more years out. More complicating factors are the drop in transmitter power as we switch from analog to digital, the rise of bluetooth headsets, and the usage of phones by children who have thinner skulls.

Izawwlgood wrote:You realize that the study was based on self reported cellphone usage, ya?


True, there could be confirmation bias (ie, people look for explanations, people who got brain cancer near their ear could suddenly remember and focus on all the cell phone usage they've had). Depending on how small the number of respondents who actually got glioma is (iirc, it's 3/100,000 in the general population), I wouldn't be surprised if they over reported their usage. But then again, I wouldn't dismiss this study based on that possibility alone because maybe they DO know how much they use cell phones. Don't forget, bills do log number of minutes used.


If this link exists, this will be the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the human race. Something like 5 out of 7 Billion humans use cell phones.


Vaniver wrote:But... but... cell phone radiation isn't strong enough to cause cancer. It's not ionizing. Any effects (like the "talking over 30 minutes a day" group) are most likely caused by confounding variables.


They do increase the temperature of the side of your head that they are on. Given how little we understand about the human body, who the fuck knows? Can you say for sure that only radiation and chemicals cause mutations? Someone must have done a study on mice....
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Plasma Man » Wed Jun 01, 2011 11:21 am UTC

There are many known causes of cancer, which is what makes studies looking at one cause difficult to do. As a simple web search would have told you, other causes of cancer can include:
Diet
Lifestyle
Infection (viral, bacterial or parasitic)
Genetics
Physical agents (asbestos etc.)

There may be others, but the links are still being investigated. This is the correct approach, by the way. If you're not sure about something, study it some more and try to get more data to inform your decision, which is essentially what the World Health Organisation is saying.

I'm afraid I'm also going to call you out on your hyperbolic bullshit claim that "If this link exists, this will be the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the human race." Tobacco is responsible for one in three cancer deaths in the developed world, and one in five worldwide. There's no evidence whatsoever to suggest that mobile phones are going to be in anything like the same league.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby buddy431 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:19 pm UTC

Solt wrote:If this link exists, this will be the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the human race. Something like 5 out of 7 Billion humans use cell phones.


Bullshit. Even if a genuine causal relationship does exist, it's small, much smaller than the relationship between smoking and cancer, or car exhaust and cancer, or probably even playing-out-in-the-sun and cancer. The absolute increase in cancer rates would still be very small, even given the large number of people who are exposed, due to the weak nature of the correlation. Cell phones are known to be fairly dangerous in certain situations (i.e. driving and using the phone), and there hasn't been any sort of catastrophe of epic proportions. A little extra cancer risk isn't going to change that.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:30 pm UTC

Solt wrote: Don't forget, bills do log number of minutes used.

Then curious that they were unable to procure cellphone use records from brain cancer patients.

Still though, separating the confounding factors from this equation seems impossible; cellphone usage isn't necessarily an independent variable; I bet there's all manner of links to cell phone use that are also factors in cancer.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby buddy431 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:44 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Still though, separating the confounding factors from this equation seems impossible; cellphone usage isn't necessarily an independent variable; I bet there's all manner of links to cell phone use that are also factors in cancer.


Smoking isn't necessarily an independent variable; I bet there's all manner of links to smoking that are also factors in cancer. Ultraviolet light exposure isn't necessarily an independent variable; I bet there's all manner of links to tanning bed use that are also factors in cancer. Benzene exposure isn't necessarily an independent variable; I bet there's all manner of links to benzene exposure that are also factors in cancer, etc.

Yes, there are confounding variables. Yes, the link is tentative, and may turn out to be a due to some other factor, or even chance. But there are valid ways to study the effect of a single variable. Otherwise we could never study the effect of any chemical or involvement in any activity. I'll repeat what I said earlier - just because something is hard to study doesn't mean it's not worth studying.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:48 pm UTC

My point is I bet you could show a link between cellphone use and smoking (say, taking a smoke break gives someone 5-10m to check/respond to voicemails or such); what's causing cancer, the phone use or the smoking?

Since nearly everyone uses cellphones, separating out all those confounding factors seems like a truly herculean task.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby buddy431 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:00 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:My point is I bet you could show a link between cellphone use and smoking (say, taking a smoke break gives someone 5-10m to check/respond to voicemails or such); what's causing cancer, the phone use or the smoking?

Since nearly everyone uses cellphones, separating out all those confounding factors seems like a truly herculean task.


How is it any different than sorting out confounding factors for any other activity? Not everyone uses a cell phone, and not everyone uses a cell phone the same amount. You do the same types of studies that you would do to look for a link between any other activity and disease: cohort studies and case-control studies. Yes, controlling for confounding factors is hard. But people do it all the time, for all types of activities and diseases.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:03 pm UTC

I'd be curious to know how many of those studies use self reported data for an activity that ~75-90% of the world partakes in.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby jakovasaur » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:06 pm UTC

buddy431 wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:My point is I bet you could show a link between cellphone use and smoking (say, taking a smoke break gives someone 5-10m to check/respond to voicemails or such); what's causing cancer, the phone use or the smoking?

Since nearly everyone uses cellphones, separating out all those confounding factors seems like a truly herculean task.


How is it any different than sorting out confounding factors for any other activity? Not everyone uses a cell phone, and not everyone uses a cell phone the same amount. You do the same types of studies that you would do to look for a link between any other activity and disease: cohort studies and case-control studies. Yes, controlling for confounding factors is hard. But people do it all the time, for all types of activities and diseases.

I think cell phones are different because even though a lot of people used to smoke, you could find plenty of people within a given group that didn't. I'd imagine that the only people who don't use cell phones don't use them because they belong to some particular group (old, extremely poor, etc) which would be very different from people who do use cell phones (ie. everyone else). Yeah, of course it's possible, but I think "herculean" seems like a good descriptor.

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:25 pm UTC

If you have accurate data about phone usage (i.e. not self-reported), there's no reason you couldn't check for what correlations may exist. The fact that almost everyone uses cell phones just means you have a really huge potential sample size. You could ignore non-users completely and still get useful results based on just how much someone does use their phone.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby jakovasaur » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:32 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If you have accurate data about phone usage (i.e. not self-reported), there's no reason you couldn't check for what correlations may exist. The fact that almost everyone uses cell phones just means you have a really huge potential sample size. You could ignore non-users completely and still get useful results based on just how much someone does use their phone.

Oh. Right. I was only thinking users vs. non-users. Is the problem with self-reporting supposed to be that the people who get brain cancer convince themselves that they talked on the phone too much? Or just that it's too unreliable?

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:35 pm UTC

Your sample size here is enormous though; it's basically everyone. Wouldn't you be hard pressed to find equivalent individuals who don't use cellphones? It'd be like trying to prove that the drinking water in an area causes an change in self-reported happiness; how do you find someone in an area who isn't drinking the water, but who retains all the typical features of people in the area?
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Dauric » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:38 pm UTC

jakovasaur wrote:
buddy431 wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:My point is I bet you could show a link between cellphone use and smoking (say, taking a smoke break gives someone 5-10m to check/respond to voicemails or such); what's causing cancer, the phone use or the smoking?

Since nearly everyone uses cellphones, separating out all those confounding factors seems like a truly herculean task.


How is it any different than sorting out confounding factors for any other activity? Not everyone uses a cell phone, and not everyone uses a cell phone the same amount. You do the same types of studies that you would do to look for a link between any other activity and disease: cohort studies and case-control studies. Yes, controlling for confounding factors is hard. But people do it all the time, for all types of activities and diseases.

I think cell phones are different because even though a lot of people used to smoke, you could find plenty of people within a given group that didn't. I'd imagine that the only people who don't use cell phones don't use them because they belong to some particular group (old, extremely poor, etc) which would be very different from people who do use cell phones (ie. everyone else). Yeah, of course it's possible, but I think "herculean" seems like a good descriptor.


This is certainly a factor in 0 vs. any other usage number. It's possible to compare relative usage with relative risk of cancer, however the data being used is 'Self Reported' which dramatically increases the margin of error. Just asking someone how much they think they use their phones will certainly run afoul of people lowballing because they think they use it to much and don't want to admit it. Alternately people could look at minutes used, but there's no way to know how much of that is transmitter-to-ear time as opposed to speaker-phone or headset (wired Vs. Bluetooth becomes important here since BT is -yet another- RF transmitter though a much lower power, and I've seen a guy with two Bluetooth headsets on at once, so that may be another factor depending on how many of the people in the study are that psychotic err.. workaholic).

To be clear, I'm agreeing with the idea that sifting this data, while possible, is certainly no small feat of number crunching. "Herculean" would seem to be an appropriate adjective.

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You called it. My local TV station ran an article in their "Tech Bytes" segment, (Produced by either CNN or the ABC corporate news teams, not the local) that was reasonably balanced noting that the WHO classification included coffee and pickles, where in the very same broadcast no more than five minutes later the local production team told the story like using a cell-phone was equivalent to sucking on a car exhaust-pipe made of lead that was blowing aerosol pesticides.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:44 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Your sample size here is enormous though; it's basically everyone. Wouldn't you be hard pressed to find equivalent individuals who don't use cellphones?
Sure. But why do you need those individuals?
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Dauric » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:48 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:Your sample size here is enormous though; it's basically everyone. Wouldn't you be hard pressed to find equivalent individuals who don't use cellphones?
Sure. But why do you need those individuals?

Control group. Knowing the risk for brain tumors in the same RF environment.

The thing is if there's a jump in risk between 0 and .01, but a modest slope of increasing risk between .01 and 1, that jump is important but you need to have people who are 0's to know there's a jump there.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:57 pm UTC

Yeah, to determine a baseline. You can't claim that smoking causes lung cancer until you show an increase in lung cancer compared non-smokers. How do you find non-cellphone users with similar life patterns to cellphone users (i.e., the homeless may not use cellphones [some, anyway] but they probably do all sorts of things that raise or lower their chances of cancer that non-homeless people aren't doing)?

The WHO study found that brain cancer is slightly correlated to those who self report more time on a cellphone; I don't think you can say it's causative, because you haven't controlled for any number of a bazillion variables. It's like saying that in people who are undergoing chemo, they self report spending more time sitting in circles with IV drips and chatting with people; clearly, sitting in circles with IV drips while chatting with people causes cancer.
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby broken_escalator » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:02 pm UTC

I posit we glue cellphones onto rats and play the waiting game!

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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Triangle_Man » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:06 pm UTC

So the WHO may have used faulty research methods in conducting their cell phone = brain cancer studies?

(Not that it'll stop people from panicking about it, but you know...)
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Re: WHO unable to prove mobile phones don't cause cancer

Postby Dauric » Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:10 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Yeah, to determine a baseline. You can't claim that smoking causes lung cancer until you show an increase in lung cancer compared non-smokers. How do you find non-cellphone users with similar life patterns to cellphone users (i.e., the homeless may not use cellphones [some, anyway] but they probably do all sorts of things that raise or lower their chances of cancer that non-homeless people aren't doing)?

The WHO study found that brain cancer is slightly correlated to those who self report more time on a cellphone; I don't think you can say it's causative, because you haven't controlled for any number of a bazillion variables. It's like saying that in people who are undergoing chemo, they self report spending more time sitting in circles with IV drips and chatting with people; clearly, sitting in circles with IV drips while chatting with people causes cancer.


Well, you -could- report that increased usage of cell-phones may have increased risks without having non-users in the study, you just can't say anything about non-use compared to minimal use. The problem with -reporting- this is that it's a nuanced thing to say, and the public rarely gets the nuances (one way or another).

The thing is that to the question "Are cell phones causing cancer?" a jump in risk between 0 and .01* is important.

*read .01 as the minimally significant measurement of use/exposure, whatever that actually is

If there's no significant jump then transmit away you're more likely to be struck by lightning in your cell phone than get a brain tumor from it, while if there's a small or moderate change in risk than cell-phone hazards can be mitigated by using them sparingly, but parents should prevent teenage talk-aholics from getting their hands on them. If there's a significant jump then cell phones are microwaving brains just by being turned on and a major part of modern infrastructure needs to be re-evaluated immediately.

Edit:

My understanding of the information is that the WHO is saying there's a statistical suggestion of an inclined slope of risk of brain cancer between 0 (no use) and 1 (all the time), but the risks involved are so small that they can't actually nail down where the slope starts or the shape of the slope, so the only 'conclusion' they can come up with for this particular study is "maybe".
Last edited by Dauric on Wed Jun 01, 2011 4:20 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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