April 6, 2006

FDA questions latest cell phone safety study

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration on Thursday questioned a recently published
study that raised concerns about a heightened risk of brain
cancer in wireless phone users, but added the agency would
review all related data.

Swedish researchers said last month the use of cellular
phones over a long period of time can raise the risk of brain
tumors. Their findings contradict a number of earlier studies
and are "difficult to interpret," the FDA said.

The FDA noted the study used a mailed questionnaire with a
few follow-up interviews by telephone rather than in-person
evaluations. It also did not make certain statistical
adjustments to take possible other factors into account, the
agency said.

Still, the FDA said it "plans to convene a meeting in the
near future to evaluate research conducted to date in this area
and identify gaps in knowledge that warrant additional

It also will continue to monitor studies for possible
health problems stemming from exposure to radio frequency

The FDA said it posted its comments on its Web site after
receiving numerous queries following the latest findings. In
the past, the agency and the Federal Communications Commission
have said there is no known cancer risk, but if there is any
risk, it is likely very small.

The Swedish study is not consistent with several other
long-terms studies published over the years that found no
evidence of harm from radiation emitted from cell phones.

A Dutch Health Council review of research from around the
world did not find harm from the phones or TV towers, which
also emit radiation. Another four-year British survey showed no
link between regular, long-term use of cell phones and the most
common type of tumor.

An industry representative said the vast majority of
scientists have already concluded wireless phones are safe.

"When you objectively look at the enormous body of science
that exists, you have to conclude that there is no evidence of
adverse health effects," said Joe Farren, spokesman for CTIA, a
wireless industry trade association.

He added the FDA had already been planning to conduct a

Other scientific experts have said driving while using cell
phones is more dangerous than the threat of cancer.

The researchers at the Swedish National Institute for
Working Life compared data from 2,200 cancer patients and an
equal number of healthy patients.

Those who heavily used wireless phones had a 240 percent
increased risk of a cancerous tumor on the side of the head
where they used their phone, they reported on March 31.

The results, published in the International Archives of
Occupational and Environmental Health, defined heavy use of
wireless phones as 2,000 or more hours, or about one hour per
day for 10 years.

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky)