Statement Regarding Cell Phones from the Acoustic Neuroma Association

The widespread use of cell phones and many studies on cell phones and possible associated health risks prompted the Acoustic Neuroma Association Board of Directors to initiate the following statement regarding cell phone usage and acoustic neuroma.

This statement is endorsed by the ANA Medical Advisory Board, which is co-chaired by John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, and includes Philip Theodosopoulos, MD. Drs. Tew and Theodosopoulos are neurosurgeons with UCGNI and the Mayfield Clinic.

The statement is intended as a cautionary alert.  This information is not intended to take the place of advice and guidance from your personal physician.  You should always consult with your physician with questions and concerns.  It is important to remember that early diagnosis of small tumors provides more treatment options and greater success, with the greater possibility of fewer long-term complications.

There has been much interest and controversy in the past decade regarding the possible role of mobile phones as a cause of brain tumors.  The use of cell phones has become ubiquitous around the world and if they played a causative role in a disease process, even such as causing a benign tumor like an acoustic neuroma (AN), it would have tremendous public health implications.  According to the International Telecommunication Union, by 2006, 91 persons out of 100 were cell phone subscribers in developed countries.  As many as 32 persons per 100 were subscribers in the developing world.

There have been 25 epidemiologic studies published between 1999 and 2008 trying to examine the role of mobile phones in the etiology of brain tumors, including ANs.  Most notably, a large study from Sweden by Hardell and colleagues, and a multi-institutional study involving 16 centers in 13 countries called INTERPHONE, have admirably tried to answer this important question.

Overall, the best interpretation of the results of these studies does not demonstrate support for an increased risk of developing an AN in frequent cell phone users.  However, the science is very suggestive that the most malignant brain cancer (glioblastoma) and a benign brain tumor of the auditory nerve (acoustic neuroma) increased in cell phone users after 10 years of use, and the effect is more pronounced in children’s brains.  But the science is not absolutely positive, and research in this area is continuing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that long-term use of cell phones may be linked to elevated risk of some types of brain issues.  The conclusion, which is reportedly still inconclusive, is derived from a landmark international study overseen by the WHO that has lasted for decades.

The results, though not entirely conclusive, clearly have concerned the WHO.  Dr. Elizabeth Cardis, from WHO, is quoted as saying “In the absence of definitive results and in the light of a number of studies which, though limited, suggest a possible effect of radio-frequency radiation, precautions are important.”  There is particular concern regarding use by children, as their thinner skulls are less likely to shield the brain from harmful frequencies.

The Food and Drug Administration says the research “does not allow us to conclude that mobile phones are absolutely safe, or that they are unsafe.”

Those who cannot avoid using cell phones may consider the advice offered by the Environmental Working Group to minimize their exposure to radiation.

  • Use a low-level radiation cell phone.  Check out for the best 10 cell phones that emit low-level radiation.
  • Use a headset or speaker.
  • Listen more and talk less.  Cell phones emit radiation when you talk or text, but not when you are receiving signals or messages.
  • Hold your cell phone away from your body.
  • Text more and talk less.
  • Stop trying to communicate when the signal is poor.  Poor signals mean your cell phone needs to send stronger signals (higher level radiation) to the tower.
  • Don’t allow your children to use or play with your cell phones.  Children’s brains absorb twice as much radiation as adults.
  • Don’t use the “radiation shield.”  Radiation shields such an antenna caps or keypad covers reduce the connection quality and force the machine to emit higher radiation to deliver a stronger signal.
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