New warning on mobile phone cancer risk

Leading US cancer expert warns of danger from excessive mobile usage, says children should not use phones

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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 26, 2008

A leading US cancer research expert has warned of a possible link between mobile phone usage and cancer.

Dr Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said in a memo to 3,000 staff at the university that all users should limit mobile phone use, and that children should only use mobile phones in an emergency.

Herberman told the AP newswire that his warning was based on unpublished data, and that he was advocating a ‘better-safe-than-sorry-approach'.

"Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said.

While some governments have issued advisory warnings on excessive mobile phone use and the possibility that electro-magnetic radiation from handsets could cause brain tumours and other cancers, experts are divided on the subject.

Numerous studies in Europe, Japan and the US, including a study of 420,000 Danish mobile phone users, including long term users, have found no increased risk of cancer. Other studies have shown a 50% increase in cancer of the parotid saliva gland, which is in the lower jaw/ ear area, among heavy mobile users.

In the memo to staff, Herberman advises that adults should use a handsfree kit or speaker phone, and keep the phone away from the head. Children should not be allowed to use mobiles, as their brains are still developing. The memo also warns that mobiles shouldn't be used in close proximity to others, to avoid exposing them to electromagnetic field.

Herberman acknowledges that his advice is likely to be controversial but said he felt the a warning was called for.

"Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer. Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use," the memo said.

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