A somewhat unsatisfactory verdict has finally, haphazardly been delivered on cell phones and brain cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, the radiation emitted by cellular devices is "possibly carcinogenic." The announcement comes from a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries who sat down in Lyon, France last week "to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields" by surveying hundreds of papers published on the topic over the past few years. In other words, WHO set out to settle an argument that thousands of scientists have been waging since the Zack Morris brick-phone days.
Let's start with the bad news. The results of the IARC survey do show a trend that links cell phone use and cancer, but the study was limited to two particular kinds of brain tumor, gliomas and acoustic neuromas. A sort of catch-all category, gliomas account for about half of the brain tumors and depending on the location can be treatable. Acoustic neuromas form on the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain and can exist undetected for a long time. The correlation of these types of cancer and cell phone use will probably convince conspiracy theorists and hypochondriacs alike that cell phones are dangerous. Of the hundreds of studies reviewed, "one study of past cell phone use (up to the year 2004), showed a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users [with a reported average use of] 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period." As Engadget bloggers have pointed out for years, however, people have been saying this for years.