• 12 SEP 12
    • 5

    Why does Cancer Council NSW downplay the mobile phone brain cancer link?

    Cancer Council NSW has just launched Brain Cancer Action Week, spearheaded by neurosurgeon Charlie Teo. See Dr.Teo here.

    I certainly support the Cancer Council in its initiative but am very concerned that in its press release any mention of mobile phone use as a risk factor is totally avoided. Then we have CEO Andrew Penman actually stating in part: “Risk factors of brain cancer are unknown”. Really???

    Also on the Cancer Council NSW’s website it lists the following under ways to “Reduce Risks”
    1) Sun Protection
    2) Eating and moving
    3) Smoking
    4) Screening
    5) Local Government: promoting healthy local living
    6) Cancer in the workplace
    7) Alcohol
    8) Healthy eating after cancer

    Is this another Harry Potter/Lord Voldemort moment where that-which-must-never-be-named comes into play? I find it surprising that Cancer Council NSW can use respected neurosurgeon Charlie Teo to promote its funding drive but still downplay the issue of mobile phone use and the increased risk of brain cancer. If you dig down into the council’s web site you can find the topic mentioned but in a dismissive way. For example there is CEO Andrew Penmen’s factually incorrect statement Brain cancer mobile phone panic should be put on hold I highly recommend reading this statement which reads more like something AMTA has spewed out.

    Is Penman saying here that until conclusive evidence is obtained, precautionary advice should not be given? Does this reluctance extend to not advising recovering brain tumour patients to avoid using their mobile phones? Unfortunately I think yes.

    Here is the press release:

    Brain cancer is leading cause of cancer death in young people

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/30904/news-media/latest-news-news-media/media-releases-news-room-news-media/brain-cancer-is-leading-cause-of-cancer-death-in-young-people/?pp=30904

    Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young people* and accounts for more than one third of cancer deaths in children aged under 10.

    This alarming statistic marks the commencement of the second annual Brain Cancer Action Week, an initiative designed to raise awareness and funds for research into brain cancer, the least funded and deadliest cancer in Australia.

    Today, leading neurosurgeon, Dr Charlie Teo, joined Cancer Council in launching the week by calling for an increase in funding for research into brain cancer.

    Dr Teo said, “People continue to believe that cancer is a disease that strikes as you get older. I saw 23 patients last week. Twenty were diagnosed with malignant brain cancer. Eight of those diagnosed were under 16 years old.

    “It will take $50 billion over the next 30 to 50 years to find a cure for brain cancer but we need some significant funds injected now if we are to see any reduction in brain cancer related deaths.

    “Once diagnosed, patients have just a five per cent chance of surviving this extremely aggressive disease. Most die within six months.

    Dr Andrew Penman, CEO of Cancer Council NSW echoed Dr Teo’s call for funding.

    Dr Penman said, “Despite having a fatality rate of almost 100 per cent, brain cancer remains the least understood of all the cancers. It’s the biggest cancer killer of young people and we need funds to change this.

    “Each year about 1400 cases of malignant brain cancer are diagnosed in Australia and about 1100 people die from the disease. That’s one every eight hours. Risk factors of brain cancer are unknown and there are no screening procedures in place. Until we have the funds for more research, the survival rate will not improve.

    “A third of cancers can be prevented by making conscious lifestyle choices, for example by not smoking, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. However, brain cancer is indiscriminate and due to the lack of research we don’t know how to prevent it.

    “Worryingly, there has been no significant improvement to brain cancer survival rates in almost two decades, but with research we can make a difference. Look at leukaemia, which killed 90 per cent of patients just 15 years ago. The figure has now turned on its head with a survival rate of 90 per cent due to funds for research. Brain Cancer Action Week aims to be instrumental in offering brain cancer patients a similar turn around in survival rates.”

    To find out more about Brain Cancer Action Week 2011 and how to donate, please visit www.braincanceraction.com.au.

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    Now here is CEO Andrew Penman’s opinion on mobile phone use and brain cancer:

    Brain cancer mobile phone panic should be put on hold

    Australians should not unnecessarily panic about mobile phones causing brain cancer according to Cancer Council NSW CEO Dr Andrew Penman. Dr Penman said that numerous studies around the world have failed to prove that mobile phones are a cause of brain cancer. “Mobile phones have been widely used in Australia for nearly 20 years now. Contrary to concerns about mobile phones, we have seen absolutely no associated increase in brain cancer cases in Australia or overseas,” Dr Penman said. “Users should therefore not unduly worry that their device will give them brain cancer. “More research is desperately needed to find out what actually does cause brain cancer and how treatments can be improved. “Currently, brain cancer is the number one cancer killer of children and has a survival rate of just 5 per cent in its most aggressive form. Yet, it’s the most under-studied cancer with little research funding.”

    Cancer Council NSW has funded more than $4.8 million worth of research grants in brain cancer during 2011 and more than $8.6 million in the last five years.

    Dr Penman’s call for research funding comes during Brain Cancer Action Week which runs from 6-12 May. For more information, visit www.braincanceraction.com.au.

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