Technology

Mobile Phones Don't Cause Brain Cancer

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Wotta relief:

More than a decade's use of mobile phones does not increase the risk of brain cancer, according to one of the largest studies yet conducted into the link.

The finding is reassuring with long-term use of mobiles increasing. Worldwide users of mobile phones now number more than one billion and concerns have grown about the possible health effects of the devices.

But the latest study of 420,000 users who had owned mobiles for up to 21 years has confirmed earlier findings that there is no evidence of risk.

More here.

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  1. Yea, but did they address the issue of Corporate Mind Control? Of course not! Expect some research into this by Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, and Gore Vidal, soon.

    Sponsored by The Nation.

  2. Yeah, and cigarettes are actually good for you. Cell phones manufacturers have known for years that their products cause cancer. This study sounds like something straight out of the Tobacco Institute.

  3. Dan T.,

    You ought to start posting under John’s name, because that would make things a lot less confusing.

  4. But what about sperm?

  5. Eh. At least Editor Gillespie uses Reason’s budget to include HnR, where story selection bias can be pointed out when it comes up.

    My own suspicion is that there is a weak link between cell phones (which I don’t use) and face cancer, and that this type of low level risk is really hard to deal with in a fair way because the law tends to treat unreasonable product risks as an all-or-nothing boolean variable, rather than as a true, continuous scalar quantity.

    I can understand HnR’s general skepticism about the legal system for this reason, but the lack of positive help in improving the legal system from these parts makes me less than sympathetic when one of the benefactors takes one in the shorts.

    Will be interesting to see what the next study says.

  6. That’s OK, lawyers, when the next study comes out linking sitting to butt cancer, you can sue all the furniture manufacturers you can find. Better luck next time!

  7. that is the correct approach, rafuzo: when somebody says that astudy in a controversial area is authoritative, the first thing you do is examine the economic motivations of the person putting the study under your nose. If it is a PI attorney, that tends to say one thing. If it is Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason, it means something else.

  8. that is the correct approach, rafuzo: when somebody says that astudy in a controversial area is authoritative, the first thing you do is examine the economic motivations of the person putting the study under your nose. If it is a PI attorney, that tends to say one thing. If it is Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason, it means something else.

    That’s why it’s a good idea to read the f*cking article first before talking out of your ass. The idea that this is an authoritative study was suggested by the journalist who wrote the article, not Mr. Gillespie.

    Oh, and what would you call the results of a 21-year study involving over 420,000 subjects that was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute? Preliminary?

  9. Oh, and what would you call the results of a 21-year study involving over 420,000 subjects that was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute? Preliminary?

    My preferred descriptor for the study is:

    pending peer review, especially peer review by scientists incentivized to scrutinize.

    I am not saying that the study is bad. I am not saying Eitor Gillespie has done anything wrong in selecting this topic or even the linked particular account he chose to link. It is real news.

  10. “Mobile Phones Don’t Cause Brain Cancer”

    They do, however, cause people to be complete rude jerks in quiet restaurants, theaters, parks and other places where you’d rather not listen in on their business deals/schmoozing/romancing/gossip.

  11. pending peer review, especially peer review by scientists incentivized to scrutinize.

    Uh, the general procedure is for a study to be peer-reviewed before it is published. And the editorial staff of a big-time publication such as the JNCI would almost certainly have their reviewers comment on the study before they even considered printing it.

  12. JNCI would almost certainly have their reviewers

    (emphasis added)

  13. I think Sam is demonstrating a complete ignorance of what peer review means in the world of scientific publication.

    A quick scan of the JNCI website leads me to believe that it is a peer reviewed journal. (Hint: they run articles past “external reviewers” before they are published).

  14. The power levels of the EM emissions of cell phones are very low. The idea that they could cause genetic mutations resulting in cancer is, well, an unlikely one.

    My own suspicion is that there is a weak link between cell phones (which I don’t use) and face cancer, and that this type of low level risk is really hard to deal with in a fair way because the law tends to treat unreasonable product risks as an all-or-nothing boolean variable, rather than as a true, continuous scalar quantity.

    Dude, do you even believe your own words?

  15. I think Sam is demonstrating a complete ignorance of what peer review means in the world of scientific publication.

    Oh, I know what it means in the mysterious world of scientific publication. that is how I knew which phrase in Holly’s quote required emphasis. However, I think we are talking about peer review attendant to contingency litigation here, which is a different and more rigorous thing.

  16. We regulate cigarettes, a known cancer causing product. Maybe we should take the same approach with cell phones. Regulate their usage (a set number of allowed minutes of usage per day, no users under 18, etc), and tax them, with those monies being spent on educating the public on cell phone health dangers.

  17. Dan T.,

    Better yet, we could *say* we’re going to use those monies on educating the public about cell phone dangers, and then spend it on pork projects and administrative boondoggles instead!

    Rock on, Mr. Internet Thread Troller Guy.

  18. I know you are, but what am I?

  19. The great thing about Dan T. is that with all of the impostors posting as him it’s no longer possible for him to get a word in edgewise.

    As to peer review, peer reviewers check to see whether the conclusions offered are consistent with the data presented, whether the methods used to collect and analyze the data are consistent with the best known practices (or, in a paper on a new method, whether the new method is consistent with the available background information), and so forth.

    Peer review does not mean that the results are accurate and the conclusions are correct. It just means that the paper describes a piece of work that was conducted in a thorough and reasonable manner.

    Accuracy and correctness are gauged by independent replication, not by peer review. And even then, replicated results are still subject to further testing with more sophisticated techniques. Hell, every year Physical Review Letters publishes a few articles testing things like the speed of light, the mass of the photon (zero as far as we know, but they keep checking it with more sensitive techniques, just to be sure), the inverse square law of gravity, and other basic facts of freshman physics. We’re pretty sure about these things, but we still keep testing anyway.

    How do I know this? Because a week ago I was invited to join the peer review process. The article and the form for reviewer comments are on my desk. I know exactly what the process is about.

  20. How do I know this? Because a week ago I was invited to join the peer review process. The article and the form for reviewer comments are on my desk. I know exactly what the process is about.

    You’ll know even better if you ever try to say something in peer review that your peer review supervisor doesn’t want you to say. OTOH, then again, if you are not a rock the boat type, then the issue is unlikley to arise.

  21. How many scientific publications have you peer-reviewed for the journals, Dave W.?

  22. What about lightning strikes?

  23. To be clear, I shouldn’t claim to be an expert on a process that I’ve only recently joined, but the questionaire is right in front of me. It makes it pretty clear what they’re looking for. And what they’re looking for is a report of a quality piece of work. Correctness is gauged by replication, not peer review.

  24. To be clear, I shouldn’t claim to be an expert on a process that I’ve only recently joined, but the questionaire is right in front of me. It makes it pretty clear what they’re looking for. And what they’re looking for is a report of a quality piece of work. Correctness is gauged by replication, not peer review.

    (emphasis added)

    I have a feeling that they will be very satisfied with your peer review work, T. You have a good attitude for it.

  25. Well, if the data is consistent with the conclusions, if the methodology is well-documented, and if they ask good questions, do their best to rule out alternative explanations, and include error bars and discussions of the limits of their technique, what more could I want from the paper? Sounds like a good paper to me.

  26. I have faith you will make those judgement calls in the exact manner they would have you make them, T., which is what it is all about. If I were hiring someone to peer review my own scientific work, it would most certainly be you.

  27. So should I change my mind about my proposal to send periodic warning-text-messaegs to all cell phone users?

  28. Yea, but did they address the issue of Corporate Mind Control? Of course not!

    There’s been a solution to this for decades: tin foil hats. Works for me.

  29. Yeah, and cigarettes are actually good for you. Cell phones manufacturers have known for years that their products cause cancer. This study sounds like something straight out of the Tobacco Institute.

    As the executive director for The Center for Good Things that People Want, I have commissioned several studies which disprove that watching goldfish causes cacner. Many people have derided these studies as “tainted” because they were funded by CGTPW. However, I aggressively deny that my organization’s funding tainted the studies. The data is good, it’s sound, the control groups sufficiently large and the margin of error sufficiently small.

    We here at CGTPW maintain that there are in fact things that do not cause cancer. We continue to fund studies in our attempt to prove that this is in fact the case.

  30. Paul

    Does the CGTPW publish telepathically or by Divine Writ?

  31. thoreau-

    Peer review is for berating someone for not citing you papers, and recommending publication only after they do. Or so, that’s how it works for me.

    All-

    For some reason I’ve been banned, my comments taken down, and the webmaster has yet to respond to my emails. Just wondering if anyone else has had the same experience; maybe new server squirrels or something. Maybe I should have kicked in a few extra bucks the last time Reason Mag sent me that letter, you know the one, we need $1,000,000 more each issue to keep reason running. Anyway,…

  32. I’m back! Apparently my university is home to a few bad eggs, or so they say.

  33. Does the CGTPW publish telepathically or by Divine Writ?

    Mostly by cell phone. Still working on the logo, though.

  34. pigwiggle-

    Nobody has asked me to cite them so far on papers that I’ve been first author on, but on papers where I’ve been a co-author I’ve gotten a few of those requests. When I recently got my first article to review, my supervisor said “Oh, you should tell them to cite you!”

    I’m not prepared to be the asshole who insists that somebody cite me in order to get published.

  35. I’m not prepared to be the asshole who insists that somebody cite me in order to get published.

    If you ever change your mind on this be sure to come back and let us know. It is interesting to see how the mind of a peer reviewer develops over time.

  36. thoreau-

    I’m surprised you haven’t reviewed more. A lot of grad students and post docs end up carrying most of the reviewing load for their busy bosses. You must have been blessed with a not-so-absent advisor. Or maybe I shouldn’t say blessed. I cringe when I think what my PhD would have been like with my advisor looking over my shoulder.

    Anyway, I do what I’m told. I reviewed a manuscript this week, and I spent an hour yesterday trying to figure out a way to tactfully ask the authors to add the citations my boss was asking for. I felt like a huge asshole. We are stuck, though. If your boss is vindictive it can be very hard to find that nice ‘permanent’ position later.

    But ,at the same time, the same authors were describing a certain recently established phenomenon as if they were the first to notice such a thing. I was the first and I expect recognition. As an undergraduate I managed to publish two papers that contradicted a principle set by one of the founders of my field that has stood for 50+ years. I’m too proud to let some asshat who couldn’t be bothered with a complete literature search ignore it. I think that’s fair.

  37. pigwiggle-

    My advisor was so absent that he never sent me any reviews to do. When I finally got my first review, it was sent to me directly rather than to a boss who gave it to me.

    If the reference to your paper really is appropriate, then go ahead and insist that the authors put it in there. Nothing unethical about that.

    Did the journal send it to you directly, or is it being done in your boss’s name? If it’s being done in your boss’s name, is there any way you can ask that he give your name to the journal next time so you can get credit for it?

    If it’s being done in your own name, the report to the editor is confidential, so you can just tell your boss whatever you need to tell him, and if it doesn’t show up in the published version, well, take it up with the editor (who will remind your boss that referee reports are confidential).

    OTOH, if you’re reviewing in your boss’s name, yeah, you’re screwed.

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