The December issue of Common Ground featured an article highlighting the invisible hazards of cell phones. Recently, a controversial Danish study alleged that mobile/wireless phones were safe. This well-timed study is suspicious for many reasons, not the least of which that it was funded by the cell phone industry.
After a number of prominent, peer-reviewed studies indicating that cell phone radiation can cause genetic damage, brain and blood cell dysfunction and a host of health problems, including cancer, now comes a Danish study that appears to say there is no danger at all. And that is exactly what cell phone users want to hear, if it is true.
The problem is that the new, Danish cohort study is a ruse based upon a program initiated by the telecommunications industry more than a decade ago to control the global, scientific research agenda concerning cell phones and health effects. The industry strategy has been to fund low-risk studies that will assure a positive result, and then use it to convince the news media and the public that it is proof that cell phones are safe. Even though the science proved nothing of the sort. It is against this backdrop that the Danish study provides an illustrative case history.
This study, published in the [US] Journal of the National Cancer Institute and funded by the industry, used a methodology that gave it little chance to find any increase in the risk of cancer among cell phone users. A cell phone user was defined as someone who made only one call per week over a period of six months or more. Finding a cell phone-related cancer risk among this group would be akin to identifying excessive lung cancer risk among people who smoked one cigarette a week; similar to finding a needle in a haystack.
The study was designed to produce a pre-ordained outcome. It covered phones used from 1982 through 1995, ancient technology that bears little resemblance to the phones in use today. Furthermore, all 420,000 people were assumed to use the cell phone exactly the same way. People who used their phones on the same side of the head, where their tumours were located, were not culled and studied, thus, an opportunity to learn something important about brain cancer risk was missed. Because the investigators had access to subscriber information obtained from the phone companies, it is reasonable to assume that, that type of in-depth study could have been completed if the investigators so desired.
International cancer statistics show that Denmark is among the top 15 countries in the world for cancer deaths among both men and women. This study shows that Danes have a low cancer risk, a hypothesis that does not hold up, and which also suggests that something is wrong within the study’s data. Thus, the analytical algorithm, or the method used by the investigators for calculation, was somehow altered or flawed.
In 1993, I ran a $28.5 million research effort, funded by the industry and overseen by the US government. When studies indicated that cell phone radiation caused biological changes, the industry sought to close down the program. Completed in 2000, this program remains the largest-ever addressing the issue of cell phones and cancer.
Back in the ’90s, two authors of the 2006 Danish study applied to our program for funding to do this study. When they made the proposal on behalf of their company, the International Epidemiology Institute, both were employees of the [US] National Cancer Institute.
After consideration of their proposal, we denied them funding because we were not convinced they would provide meaningful findings. When we refused them funding, they went directly to the industry with the same pitch and they were hired.
The American Cancer Society is also on the support bandwagon for the Danish study. In 2002, scientists from the ACS testified on behalf of the cell phone industry in brain cancer litigation. The case was brought forward in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland by surgeon Christopher Newman, who had claimed that his terminal brain tumour was the result of his cell phone use.
The ACS testified that the tumour had not been caused by his cell phone. Within a year of that testimony, a report was released by the ACS that included cell phones as one of that year’s greatest cancer myths. The subsequent connection between the ACS and the cell phone industry was arrogantly blatant.
The Danish study has been trumpeted far beyond any reasonable reading of the data as proof that cell phones are safe. This is a disservice to consumers who want to believe that scientists and doctors can be trusted to be honest with data, and to keep them safe. The Danish registry remains a valuable resource, but we are still awaiting a proper epidemiological study that will be able to use that resource to help tell the world what it needs to know.
In many cases, industry-funded studies now produce industry-desired outcomes. But tampering with the integrity of scientists, scientific systems and public information steps over the lines of propriety that are appropriate for protecting business interests, especially when the casualty of the interference is the public’s health and safety.
Adapted from The Latest Reassurance Ruse About Cell Phones and Cancer by Dr. George L. Carlo, with contributions from Jill Ungar, Milt Bowling and Martin Schram. See the entire article at Dr. Carlo Reviews the Danish Cohort Study under Safe Wireless Alerts (www.safewireless.org). Dr. George Carlo