• 09 JAN 07
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    #626: Commentary on George Carlo’s report on the Danish cell phone study

    Note: The following was received December 20, 2006 but due to the holidays and my switching to a better Mac operating system I am posting it a bit late. Also due to upgrading and testing of this later version of my web log the numbering sequence is out – so there are no missing messages between 607-626.


    Summary by M.M. Glaser

    Dec 20 2006

    The headlines this week read, ‘Cell Phones Do Not Cause Brain Tumors’ “” just what everybody wanted to hear. But did they want to hear it if it wasn’t true? Hmmm.

    According to Dr. George Carlo, a trained epidemiologist, lawyer and Chairman of the non-profit Science and Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., the wireless industry was just taking advantage of the public’s naivete. He said the famed Danish epidemiological study proved nothing. He went on to say epidemiological studies can be designed well to learn something, or purposely to find no risk. He maintains this one was an industry-friendly design that provided industry-friendly results.

    He should have a pretty good vantage point. He was chosen by the industry to head its $28.5 million Wireless Technology Research project (WTR) in 1993, which ended in 2000. But not before some disturbing results emerged from it””results such as genetic damage caused by interference with DNA repair processes from cell phone radiation exposure, and a doubling in the risk of a rare type of brain cancer among cell phone users, including a strong correlation between the site of the tumors and the side of the head where the phones were used. This was not what the industry expected. It tried to shut down WTR and to control further research on cell phones; it certainly did not plan to inform the public of those findings. Thus a pro-wireless PR campaign was born!

    One of the studies that did not get funded by WTR was a proposal by John Boice and Joe McLaughlin (et al), two of the authors of the current Danish study. Carlo says it was, in fact, the very same study as the one reported in the news this week, and the researchers seeking funding emphasized that it would likely find no risk. In fact, none of their studies to that point had shown any risk of tumors. When it was turned down by WTR, they went directly to the industry who snapped it up. At the time, Boice and McLaughlin were employed by the National Cancer Institute (the organization whose journal recently published their study).

    So what’s wrong with the study? Sounds perfectly reasonable to check what happens to cell phone users 10 years later, right? Well, Carlo says there are quite a few things amiss?

    1. Who qualified as cell phone users? Anyone who had used a cell phone at least one time a week for six months. That?s a mere 26 phone calls and you’re in the cell phone user cohort””hardly different from not using cell phones at all. How could you expect to see a difference in cancer?
    2. When were they using cell phones? These were people using cell phones (of the older technology) sometime between 1982 and 1995, back when phone minutes were much more expensive, and non-commercial use was far less than it is now. So folks in the study didn’t really use them all that much. Oh, and commercial subscribers, the group most likely to use their cell phones the most during that time, were specifically excluded from the study. Interesting!
    3. What factors were analyzed? Gender, age, socio-economic class, personal and health habits, occupation? Nope, it was just one big group – everyone treated the same, even with regard to how much they used cell phones. Think about that one.
    4. Was it sound epidemiology, grounded on the outcomes of existing research””things like mechanisms of disease found in other studies of cell phone radiation effects (e.g., genetic damage, blood-brain barrier leakage and disrupted intercellular communication, etc.), and biologically-based factors (like consistency between the side of the head a phone is used and the side the tumor grows)? No. In fact, the Danish study in question dismissed all research indicating risk in its research review section. This is startling since there have been a few hundred studies showing biological effects from wireless radiation, and over 300 statistically significant findings (from 20 epidemiological studies) indicating tumor risk after varying amounts of use.
    5. Was the outcome of the Danish study at least consistent with Danish cancer statistics? Sorry. This study showed a low risk of all cancers studied, while Danish cancer rates are actually quite high. Something there doesn’t add up.

    According to Carlo, these design factors plus a few others a little harder to explain would have made it clear to investigators and sponsors of the Danish study that the chances of finding any risk of tumors were minimal.

    Now, look at how quickly the media outlets were informed of this particular study’s outcomes, as well as how rapidly science groups weighed in. American Cancer Society VP, Michael Thun, confirmed the lack of risk for the press. It is curious to note that ACS scientists testified on behalf of the industry in a brain tumor lawsuit a few years ago, and that cell phone radiation?s possible role in brain cancer is listed among the ACS’s greatest cancer myths. When neurologist Keith Black of Mt. Sinai Hospital stated on CNN that he believed his patient, lawyer Johnnie Cochran, died of a brain tumor as a result of his heavy and long-term cell phone use, the industry responded by merely referring to the ACS myth list.

    As Australian researcher Don Maisch once said, if a single study touts proof that cell phones don’t cause tumors, then you know the industry is behind it.

    Caveat emptor! Caveat! Caveat!

    The text of Dr. Carlo’s analysis can be found on this website: www.safewireless.org.

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