Cellphones and Cancer (The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis)

I’ve just read Tara Parker-Pope‘s June 3, 2008 New York Times article “Experts Revive Debate Over Cellphones and Cancer” and naturally made me think of The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Dr. Devra Lee Davis, which I read in April (click here to read all my entries about this book).

Davis is a leader in the field of environmental oncology. And while Davis teaches readers in The Secret History of the War on Cancer about a myriad of environmental factors that cause or are contributing factors in cancer but I don’t recall her mentioning cellphones or other radiofrequency (RF) or microwave (MW) radiation and I wonder what her thoughts are.

Certainly we know that ultraviolet (UV) light — another type of non-ionizing radiation — causes cancer and people have suspected for years that extremely low frequency radiation (ELF) from high-voltage power lines may contribute to cancer.

The website for the Center of Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh (which Devra Davis heads) does list cell phones as a risk factor so I suppose Davis either chose not to include this in her book or I simply forgot having read about it:

Use cell phones with an earpiece and speakerphone so the phone itself is not held up against your head. Children should not use cell phones. Studies claiming that there is no link between cell phone use and brain cancer were not conducted on people who used cell phones as much as the average person today. Cell phones emit low doses of microwave radiation that destroy rat brain cells and memory and reach one inch into the human brain. While British authorities recommend that children not use cell phones at all, some American firms are pushing phones for five year olds.

Some of the other items listed on the “12 Things You Can Do To Reduce Cancer Risk” Fact Sheet are equally alarming as they commonly occur every day:

Unless someone in your immediate family has had breast cancer before menopause, hold off getting your first mammogram until at least age forty, or until your doctor advises you start having them—and then have them done sparingly. Mammography does not prevent breast cancer, but can reduce deaths from the disease in post-menopausal women. It is also important to have regular physical exam of breasts by a health professional.

Use hormones sparingly. Lifetime use of hormones affects cancer risk. Consider alternatives to chemical contraception such as IUDs and condoms (which also protect against sexually transmitted disease). Avoid long term use of medications that contain hormones, including hormone replacement therapy.

Do not consume food and beverages that contain aspartame. Sweeten your food with good old-fashioned sugar or honey, or stevia instead. Despite having FDA approval, aspartame, the sugar substitute, was never given a green light by scientists—all were concerned about its potential to cause cancer. New independent studies raise further concerns about its long term safety.

Don’t microwave anything in plastic, no matter what the directions say. Some plastic chemicals can leach into food.

Don’t put anything on your baby’s skin that you can’t eat. The materials that create “no more tears” in baby shampoo are banned in several countries, because they cause cancer in animals. In some cases lotions used on the heads of African-American babies caused development of breasts and pubic hair. The FDA has no authority to regulate any of these harmful compounds in personal care products, unlike the European Union.

The note about microwaving plastic is especially scary since most of my friends microwave plastic without a second thought, though my parents have always warned me and my siblings to only microwave items in glass or ceramic or on paper plates.



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