October 06, 2008

Is Cancer Calling on your Cell Phone?

(flikr image by pinprick)

It's baaaaack...

Yep, scientists are renewing the debate over whether cell phones might cause cancer.

As I recall, at first they thought maybe yes they might be dangerous, and then bigger studies said nah, don't worry about it... Now there's a new study saying, yeah, well, you actually might want to start worrying about it again.

The CNN article cites a study by Dr. Lennart Hardell out of Örebro University in Sweden:

"The results indicated that people who use cell phones have double the chance of developing malignant brain tumors and acoustic neuromas, which are tumors on the hearing nerve. The study also said people under age 20 were more than five times as likely to develop brain cancer."

Of course there were other scientists who said: "Meh, small study, not yet peer-reviewed. Doesn't mean much--we've been using cell phones for a long time, and our brains haven't exploded out of our heads. Yet."

Okay, that wasn't an exact quote.

Bottom line: it's still unsettled. And to me, unsettling.

If I had kids? I might think about using this as an excuse to take the damn things away from them and save some $$$$ trying to limit cell phone usage--but how the heck are you supposed to do you do that?

(Photo by cotaroba)

And generally--headsets are supposed to reduce risk, so even when you're not in the car you might think about using one. You too can be one of those folks who walks around town talking to herself like a crazy person.

Personally, I don't use cell phones much as it is.

I'm one of those people who hates talking on any kind of phone. I'd rather chat in person or via email. (Yes, as we've established, I'm a nut case. But I have good company on this one).

I don't process information as well without visual cues, and I feel much more socially awkward on a phone than I do face-to-face. (And if you've ever dealt with me face-to-face, you know that's a LOT of social awkwardness!)

And for everything I hate about talking on the phone generally? I hate all those things worse when it comes to cell phones.

How come they keep inventing new teeny tiny phones that do a million things I have no interest in, but they can't get the sound quality anywhere near as good as on a landline? People are always drifting in and out and breaking up into little blippy beepy sounds. So then you have to figure out whether to fess up that didn't hear more than a few syllables of what they just said.

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear what you... no, um, could you repeat that? Um, again? No, I'm sorry, I still didn't get those last few words... Fried puppy toes? What? ..."

Or, alternatively, you can give up and just fake it and pretend you understood what the caller was saying, at the risk of totally misunderstanding the entire phone call. A really great plan when it's something important or emotionally charged or involves airplane flight times. Not.

I can never relax when I'm talking on a damned cell phone. And now if there's some (small) chance the stupid thing is leaking cancer into my head? It truly doesn't make me any more eager join the 21st century.

What about you folks: cell phone fans? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Worried?

(Note: The Crab is out of town again for a couple days, and will be hoping to get online but is not sure how often this will be possible. Back very soon to catch up with everyone!)


  1. Don't have a cell phone and don't really want one. Health issues aside (I believe the Swedes) I like being out of contact. I have no desire to be socially available all the time. Peace, quiet, those are good. Constant contact. Ewwww.

  2. Um, I can't live without my cell phone. We don't even have a landline - haven't for years! My husband and I just have our own phones. And I take that thing everywhere. If this is true, then I'm def. brain cancer material! Although I use my hands-free headset a lot - does that help??

  3. We only have cell phones (no land line). It's easier when on trips, and if my family waited until I was home they might never catch me (but I realize that being in grad school makes it a little different).

  4. I have a dear friend with a brain tumor who is 100% convinced it is from her phone (EARLYEARLY adoptor. excessive usage).

    it's in PRECISELY the place where she held her phone as well (side. everything.)

    for what that's worth.
    Im still not sure but do MODERATION in that as in oreos.

  5. Cell phones are the new cigarettes. Soon I predict that it will be illegal (and socially frowned upon, which is not the same thing) to use a cell phone on an airplane or in a restaurant. Probably there will be signs outside public places saying please do not use cell phones within 50 feet of the door.
    Can you get second-hand cell phone cancer?

  6. Damn, now you're making me want to buy myself this... http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/cellphone/8928/

  7. I'm with you, Crab; I HATE talking on any telephone. I need the visual aids of facial expression and body language.

    I'm one of the last handful of people in California without a cell phone.

  8. And how old should children be before they get cell phones? If people under 20 are most at risk...

  9. I hate to admit it, but I am attached to my cell phone (in fact, this comment comes to Cranky via CrackBerry). I don't currently have a land line, so cell phone is my only communication.

    To somewhat alleviate my cancer worries, I am mainly a texter/internet user, and my conversations usually last under 5 minutes, so phone to head contact is somewhat reduced.

    Besides, I'm not sure how much I buy into these studies...yet.

  10. I'm a belivah!

    I am constanly trying to get my husband to use his hands free set because he walks around with the phone glued to his head (mostly for work).

    I use my cell phone, but minimally, and prefer my land line due to quality issues.

    I doubt we will know the answer to this for quite some time because the first order of business will be to teach the little lab rats to talk before we can encourage cell phone use so that we can test them. By then, the little rats will be so empowered by their ability to talk and use new technology they probably won't be willing to be lab subjects any longer.

  11. I have a cell phone, but hardly ever use it. It is mostly for emergencies (when driving on the highway,if one breaks down,it is comforting to know you can call for help. If you happen to be in an area with cell phone service, that is!)
    My hubby uses one for work. He is on the highway a lot. It's comforting to know he could call for help if he was in an area with cell phone service. 90% of the time, he's not.

    I have no doubt that the Swedes are correct. We Swedes are darned smart folk.....

    I loved Holly's comment about teaching the rats to use the phones!

  12. I rarely use my cell. Like Leah, I like to be out of contact. I don't want to be accessable to everyone every minute. and I do think they should be banned in most public places.

    I DO NOT want to sit next to you on the bus while you decide outloud with your room-mate, spouse, whowever, what you should have for dinner.

    I think cell phones for anything other than emergencies are pretty darn rude. I take that back. It's not the phones that are rude. It's many cell phone users that are rude.

    End of rant.


  13. I'm not big on any phone (landline or cellular), but the kids sure are. Thankfully, mine has inherited my dislike of talking on the phone; but she also would rather die than give up her cell phone...thanks to TEXTING. Are there any studies out there looking into thumb cancer?

  14. Huh. Is it only cell phones we have to worry about or all cordless phones?

    I'm a 2/3rds hater of phones. I hate overhearing peoples conversations and when someone is constantly checking their cell phone for messages/texts when we're supposed to be having a conversation. Rude! I also hate calling people on the phone, with the exception of my mom. However I don't mind receiving phone calls. Go figure.

  15. Hate talking on the phone? You're my sisters!
    I have a cell phone, of course, so my contractors can reach me wherever I am, but at the busiest part of the building that wasn't more than twice a week. I had just gotten a new cell phone with free minutes, as opposed to my old one with no minutes which I got after my car broke down on the road four times in one year from a different cause each time (also got a new car then!) and which I kept turned off, when my father broke his hip and I was constantly calling about him and getting calls. That was good timing.
    I just don't understand the objection to hearing people talk on phones in public. Why does it bother so many people? Why is it different from hearing people talk to physically present people? I would fifty times rather hear even an obnoxious phone conversation than a television or radio that is forced on me in public. (Even my bank! My old-fashioned country bank has now installed a tv! I will be waiting outside the door on the sidewalk the next time I have to talk to my banker about my construction loan. I will be walking up to the drive-through window. I will not be inside!) (/rant)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  16. I used to use my headset more than I do now, and I really should go back to it. Probably is, this headset isn't that great....it will pull out of its socket and hang up on the person.

    Like some others, I don't have a land line. I do most of my talking on the phone when I'm out of the house, because when I get home I just want to relax, and I don't want to spend the time jabbering away to someone. So I do all my catching up while I'm walking (or, yes, I hate to admit it, driving). I should start using my hands free more often though, because I wouldn't be surprised if this study turns out to be right...

  17. Have a cell phone but wish I didn't - I actually text more then I talk. I just irritated at folks who don't understand that just because your phone rings does not mean you HAVE to answer it. grrr. Like when we are out to dinner? At happy hour?

  18. I don't have a landline, but don't use my phone all that much.

    And I get the feeling that age only matters because the under-20 crowd will presumably use cell phone until they die, thus they are exposed to the cancer for a longer period of time than a comparatively older person.

  19. Don't have one...unless I'm forced to won't get one. I can see their usefulness for some people, but I don't need one. I had one once for safety when I had a long commute for a job in the winter months, but when I quit that job I turned off the cell phone. It served it's purpose but I didn't use it for anything else...I *like* being unplugged. It annoyed me that people would say they had tried to call me and my phone was off...they didn't get why I wouldn't want to be reached anywhere at any time. I didn't want people to be able to reach me anywhere. And I can't talk and drive, so I don't.
    My main complaint is how they ring at theatres, and that people anaswer them wherever they are. I don't always answer my land line if I'm busy or have other things to do. And people texting in movie theatres drives me mad...why you can't live for a few hours without being reached is beyond me...
    I see people in restaurants and grocery stores talking on their phones instead of each other, and I know they have a proctical use, but it just seems self important and rude. I thought texting was a brilliant solution to this, like the vibrate ring, but people are just using it instead of speaking...
    Maybe if I had kids and a job where I needed to be able to be contacted I'd reconsider...

    Of course if you tried to take my iPod away I'd fight you to the death...so I suppose everyone has their digital vice...

  20. Had another thought - cell phones make people feel important and popular. (*lookitme - see how many calls I get.....*)

    But texting is far worse. Wasn't the driver of the commuter train involved in the crash in LA reportedly texting at the time of the accident?

  21. I love my cell..... Please, no brain cancer... I NEED it!!!

  22. I am also phone-phobic. Given the option, I will always wait for someone else to answer the phone when it rings. Actually making phone calls? Traumatic. Avoid it as much as possible.

    I do have a cell phone, but it only gets used out of necessity - I don't chat on the thing.

    So, not too worried about the study because I don't think I use my cell phone enough for it to be a problem.

    I hope.

  23. Actually, it also really bugs me to overhear other people's loud non-phone conversations. :+)

  24. I'm a nutcase too:) But right now I don't have a landline- just my cell phone. Except my sister lost hers, so she's borrowed it. So now I have no phone at all. Hurray, less chance of brain cancer?

  25. uch - i judt don't know what to do about cell phones. One day they cause cancer, the next they're OK but bluetooths are the devil. I honestly feel like I am not being hyperbolic when I say I can't imagine living without a cellphone - I use it for a living as a writer, let alone for emergencies. Then again, I can't imagine living with brain cancer. Waa...this is making me sad.

  26. First there were booths...then just little partitions...then those fricken phones are everywhere!! Love em in the bathroom, oh yeah! Do they cause cancer? You've got a little radiation generator up side the head..do you really need a smack up side the head to wise up? Probably.

  27. Crabby, it was so comforting to find another soul who also hates talking on the phone. I'd almost call it a fear. In my last jobs I had to be on conference calls all the time. TORTURE. I'm so awkward on the phone. My voice changes. I don't know why. I have a cell phone, no landline. I keep it on silent. It often stays in my bag for days at a time, or dead out of batteries on my desk. I don't carry it with me when I go out. Needless to say, I'm not worried about cancer. Thank you for being seeing candid about your own phone phobia (if that's what it is?). It was a true comfort.

  28. A co-worker's brother died of a malignant brain tumor that his doctor said was almost definately from cell phone usage.

    Having said that he was in international sales with not much of an actual office, usually a cell phone to each ear ever since they became available.

    Although you have to think, does excessive usage for a shorter time = less usage for a longer time???

    Kids, my 14yo niece for example, seem to text more than talk. Less chance of being eve's dropped on by nosy adults ;)

  29. My first encounter with an instore cell-phone totally turned me off. This rude woman with an obnoxious child in her cart were about to knock something delicate out of my basket part, so I asked her to watch her child(brat). She was so busy with her invisible phone friend that she huffed off, telling them how rude /I/ was!

    I hate the unreliable hard to hear things, but wish everyone in my family had one in case of emergencies when out on the road.
    But I'm good at being contradictory and nuts, so there!

  30. oh I HATE cell phones. same as Leah, "I have no desire to be socially available all the time. Peace, quiet, those are good. Constant contact. Ewwww." totally.

    Life is busy enough - I'm distracted enough. I don't need one more thing pulling me away from _________
    (fill in the blank: traffic, my kids, other conversations, interacting with people behind cashiers, etc.)

    That said, my husband has an iPhone and it's almost part of our family. It comes in handy all over the place (games for the kids, internet, looking up directions, GPS stuff) So I guess I love having access to a cell phone. I just don't want to own one myself!

  31. I have a cell but these days it's mostly used for texting flirty messages to my husband. LOVE. IT.

  32. For some reason I have difficulty knowing where my ear is when I'm using a cell phone!

    The person's voice becomes fainter and fainter and then I start readjusting the phone because I figure I haven't got it against my ear and then I become so distracted that I forget what we where talking about - back when I could actually hear what they were saying.

    So give me a land line phone, any day. Never have that problem with them.

  33. So I've got a brief internet opportunity... am outside a Wendy's in Vermont hijacking their wireless. (I did NOT eat there, just for the record.) Apparently Vermonters are so mellow they don't secure their wireless connections, and for that I'm grateful.

    I love that this is the sort of group that is just as opinionated (pro or con) about cell phones as I am, and that you all are so damn funny about it.

    Back soon with more crankiness...

  34. Well, fuck me. Guess I better start getting head CTs.

  35. I love my new HTC Touch, but not because it is a cell phone. It is my PDA and I can read all of my blogs on the bus and listen to music and text if I actually had someone to text to. My actual phone usage has not changed. I don't give out that number except to people that know I will only have it on and with me, if I have told them it will be on and with me that day. It never rings unless it is a wrong number. I use it to call for emergencies, but it means I don't have to carry an MP3, cell phone and PDA.

  36. I'm one of those people who need my mobile to function, but the reason why is really pathetic. I don't know how to operate my life without one. I have had one since childhood and have no idea how people organise things without one. Please help!

  37. cell phones help my treadmillin' go by faster. I'm pretty much bettin' on the fact Ill get cancer, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

    Kelly Turner

  38. Kelly! You mean using a treadmill causes cancer too???

    Wait a minute... that's a pretty useful excuse... hmmmn...

  39. Fried puppy toes . . . I'm still laughing (and hoping not to wake my children who just fell asleep)!

    My cell? Not much of a user. My husband whoops and hollers when I actually answer the darn thing when he's trying to locate me. I think that's a sign that it isn't a must-have for me.

    My kids? Not going to get them cell phones - they're a distraction from real life - games, music, texting . . . it is just TOO much! They'll just have to become bloggers to have their lives sucked away from them . .. or worse yet, discover Facebook. Talk about a time sucker - oy!

  40. It is quite scary to think about this. I'm not on my cell phone all of the time but I do use it and I always have it with me. Do you actually have to be connected to someone on another line for it to be harmful? Or does it send out waves by just being turned on?


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