Scientific Progress - Wireless Phones and Brain Cancer: Current State of the Science

George L. Carlo, PhD, MS, JD, and Rebecca Steffens Jenrow, MPH, Wireless Technology Research, LLCWashington, DC

In This Article

Important Scientific Follow-up (Tier III)

Taken together, the WTR research findings are not conclusive with respect to an increased risk of brain cancer or benign tumors associated with wireless phone usage. Indeed, these findings could be chance occurrences and should be confirmed. Alternatively, these findings could be early indications of a serious public health problem; thus, an immediate and focused follow-up is clearly necessary.[50,63]

Specifically, the following should be implemented:

  • A passive reporting system to capture health complaints among wireless phone users needs to be established. Currently there is no mechanism in place to allow an assessment of the presence or absence of clusters of disease among wireless phone users.

  • The analog phone user cohort studied by Dreyer and associates included mortality follow- up for only 1 year, 1994. This study should be updated with analysis of mortality among the cohort members for the years 1995 through 1999.

  • A similar cohort for digital phone users should be established and followed, with distinctions between cellular and PCS signaling included. Cellular phones transmit in the 800-900 MHz range, whereas PCS phones transmit in the 1900 MHz range.

  • A WTR-coordinated tissue panel recommended that along with brain cancer, and salivary gland tumors, adult-onset leukemia should be looked at as an outcome potentially related to RFR exposure. In adults, the flat bones of the skull contain active marrow and are in range of exposure to RFR from a wireless phone's antenna.

  • Specific studies of children are warranted for all health outcomes relevant to the range of RFR exposures and the target tissues expected from wireless phone use among children.

  • Studies of the impact of RFR exposure on pregnant women, specifically the developing embryo and fetus, are warranted based on the questions raised by the existing science.

  • The appropriateness of the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) as a measure indicative of nonthermal and chronic health effects is being evaluated anew. Scientists, including those at the FDA, recognize that the distinctions among thermal and nonthermal effects, and acute and chronic effects, must be addressed in subsequent research. As a measure of the rate of RFR passing through a tissue at a given time, the SAR does not have properties amenable to the evaluation of cumulative RFR exposures that could be critical to both heating and chronic exposures.

As new data become available, our understanding of this complex problem will improve; however, the explosion of this technology in society creates a unique necessity for ongoing interpretation of the science and communication of intervention options to those who are potentially affected and concerned. Consumers should be given the opportunity to know what potential risks they are likely to incur with the use of this technology and should have the opportunity to make informed judgments about the assumption of that risk.