Should Cell Phone Radiation be Re-classified as a Probable Human Carcinogen (Group 2A)?

Cell phones are an indispensable part of our lives. The potential human health consequences of cell phone / mobile phone radiation exposure have become a topic of debate worldwide. Because our heads and bodies absorb more than 50% of the radiation from a cell phone in normal use, scientists have voiced concerns over whether or not cell phone radiation can cause brain tumors or other cancers.

IARC Classifications

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes agents into five categories: Group 1: carcinogenic to humans; Group 2A: probably carcinogenic to humans; Group 2B: possibly carcinogenic to humans; Group 3: not classifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans; and Group 4: probably not carcinogenic to humans. Both Group 2A and Group 2B classifications mean that there is some chance that an agent can cause cancer but we are not completely sure yet. Compared to Group 2B, Group 2A means more evidence toward a higher chance of cancer risk. An example of Group 2A agents is UV radiation, and an example of Group 2B agents is lead.

In 2011, the IARC classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B). The classification was mainly based on two lines of evidence at that time. The first was from a 13-country international study coordinated by the IARC known as the Interphone Study, which found a 40% increased risk of brain tumor called glioma for “heavy” cell phone users—which the study defined as an accumulated 1,640 hours or more life-time cell phone use, which is equivalent to about half-an-hour daily use for 10 years. (The proliferation of cell phone technology since the Interphone Study, of course, would consider this level of usage less than “heavy” by current standards.) The other line of evidence came from studies by Prof. Hardell in Sweden, which also found significantly increased risk of brain tumors for such long-term and heavy cell phone users.

The Debate

However, a 2015 mobile phone radiation study published in the International Journal of Oncology disagreed with the current IARC classification and believed that cell phone radiation should be reclassified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (group 2A) instead.

The study based its Group 2A argument on new scientific evidence that strengthened the association between cell phone radiation exposure and brain tumors. The new evidence was from a 2014 French study known as the CERENAT Study published in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which found increased risk of brain tumors for the “heaviest” cell phone users—which the study defined as those whose life-long cumulative duration of cell phone use is 896 hours or more, substantially below the level denoted as “heavy” use in the Interphone Study. Specifically, the CERENAT Study found an increased risk in those who had prolonged use, made numerous calls, whose use was especially occupational and more often in urban areas.

This study was not the first to argue that the IARC classification of cell phone radiation as a “possible carcinogen” should be raised to a “probable carcinogen” level. Last year, Dr. Dariusz Leszczynski, one of the 31 scientists invited by the IARC to classify cell phone radiation, also argued in his 2014 blog post that there were 3 independent lines of evidence (the Interphone Study, the studies by Prof. Hardell in Sweden and the CERENAT Study) reaching similar conclusions that long-term heavy cell phone use increases the risk of developing brain cancer and the evidence was sufficient to classify cell phone radiation as a probable human carcinogen (Group 2A). He further claimed that “three replicates of the epidemiological evidence makes human evidence strong and some might say that the human evidence is now sufficient to put the cell phone radiation in the category of human carcinogen (Group 1).”

New Study Underway

The best way to resolve the classification argument is through further research. A new international study (the COSMOS Study) is underway to address the important unanswered questions concerning the long-term public health risks from wireless technologies. The study started on April 1, 2008 and is currently in its second 5-year period (ending May 31, 2019). A total of 290,000 adult mobile phone users were recruited across Europe. The study plans to follow the participants’ health status for 20 to 30 years. The outcome from the COSMOS Study will provide further insight into the most appropriate classification of cell phone radiation.

Reduce Your Exposure

Here at Pong, we think cell phones are wonderful gadgets but remain concerned about the health effects of cell phone radiation. While waiting for more study outcomes, we expect a continuous debate on this subject. Meanwhile, we advise you to minimize your exposure to cell phone radiation. A Pong cell phone radiation reduction case can significantly reduce your cell phone radiation exposure in this regard.

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