Commentary

Study: Cell Phones (Likely) Don't Cause Cancer

Ever since the first cell phones hit the market in the 1970s, back when the smallest model available was about the size of a Ford Crown Victoria, people have been speculating that the associated electromagnetic fields might cause cancer. However, decades of research have failed to produce evidence that this is actually the case, and this week brought news of yet another study showing that mobile devices probably aren’t bad for your health (well, aside from the well-known risks of walking into traffic, texting while driving, getting eaten by bears, and the like).

The new study, by researchers at the University of Manchester in the U.K., measured the effect of weak electromagnetic fields of the type produced by cellular technology on flavoproteins, which play a central role in the body’s mechanisms for repairing DNA -- the main line of defense against mutations which can lead to cancer.

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Study co-author Dr. Alex Jones, a research fellow at the School of Chemistry at The University of Manchester, explained the hypothetical mechanism through which electromagnetic fields were supposed to cause cancer: “Flavoproteins transfer electrons from one place to another. Along the path the electrons take, very short lived chemical species known as radical pairs are often created. Biochemical reactions involving radical pairs are considered the most plausible candidates for sensitivity to WMFs, but for them to be so the reaction conditions have to be right.”

Jones concluded: “This research suggests that the correct conditions for biochemical effects of WMFs are likely to be rare in human biology.”

Another study co-author, Prof. Nigel Sutton, remarked: “More work on other possible links will need to be done but this study definitely takes us nearer to the point where we can say that power-lines, mobile phones and other similar devices are likely to be safe for humans.”

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