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Thread: NIH panel finds cellphone radiation can cause cancer in rats

  1. #1
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    NIH panel finds cellphone radiation can cause cancer in rats

    https://qz.com/1241867/cell-phone-ra...ent-study/amp/

    This was a heavy weight expert panel convened by the NIH's National Toxicology Program (https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/) that met over three days to evaluate the results of this specific study. Their conclusions represent most authoritative current scientific opinion on this issue in the US.

    The experts found that the study authors understated the significance of their conclusions in the original publications (from last year), and that cell phone radiation likely did cause cancer in the rats.

    These conclusions also aligned with earlier studies that found similar results but with less rigor. This represents a change in scientific thinking on this issue. The new conclusion is:

    • Cell phones likely can cause cancer in mammals.
    • Nevertheless the dangers are likely very small.

    Experts interviewed by NPR and others recommend consumers take prudent steps like using speaker phones or head sets, and not keeping cell phones on their bodies all day, to limit exposure.
    Last edited by citanon; 01 Apr 18, at 00:20.

  2. #2
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Ah well, we shall see how the phone companies react now

  3. #3
    Senior Contributor DOR's Avatar
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    When the peer review panel actually looked at the studies, they found “equivocal evidence.”
    Now, understand that there are four levels of evidence in the procedure:

    Clear evidence (found twice in this study, out of 20 determinations: 10%)
    Some evidence (3 times, 15%)
    Equivocal evidence (15 times, 75%) and
    No evidence (zero).

    So, tounge-in-cheek, “next to no evidence” was found.

    https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/about/org/...ngs/index.html
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    That's not really the best way to understand the conclusions. The main finding is that there was "some evidence" that radiation exposure caused malignant heart schwannomas in male rats. The finding was replicated by an separate but similar large scale study in Italy. Scientific American has the best write up so far:

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...n-with-cancer/

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    Senior Contributor DOR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    That's not really the best way to understand the conclusions. The main finding is that there was "some evidence" that radiation exposure caused malignant heart schwannomas in male rats. The finding was replicated by an separate but similar large scale study in Italy. Scientific American has the best write up so far:

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...n-with-cancer/
    No, that's not what the peer review says.
    The main finding . . . 75% of the findings in the report . . . are not "some evidence."
    The main finding . . . 75% of the findings in the report . . . are "equivocal evidence."

    Look it up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DOR View Post
    No, that's not what the peer review says.
    The main finding . . . 75% of the findings in the report . . . are not "some evidence."
    The main finding . . . 75% of the findings in the report . . . are "equivocal evidence."

    Look it up.
    It does sort of say that, but the way you are thinking about these numbers is not quite right.

    These reports look at different types of cancers in different animals to find data about a rare event. What it says is that in a specific type of cancer, schwannomas, affecting a specific type of cells in male rats, they found some evidence. This was backed up by a separate study in Italy.

    Some evidence means that the balance of evidence weighs in favor of the finding. Statistically, that finding not only exceeded at 95% confidence (arbitrary) statistical significance threshold. It also meant that the panelists thought other factors supported that significance. In the other cancers, there were some evidence for causing cancer but it was not as significant.

    Overall, the findings were:
    Some evidence (by NIH's definition) for schwannomas in male rats.
    Some data suggesting the same for female rats but not exceeding the significance threshold.

    No clear or equivocal evidence for gliomas in rats and no clear evidence for mice.

    Here is the significance, bearing in mind that a "some evidence" finding by an NIH review panel is a pretty high bar:

    Mice vs rats: mice in biomedical studies have lower body weight than rats and somewhat different biology. Lower body weight leads to lower tissue exposure cross-section.
    Male vs female rats: this might have been the luck of the draw that it did not exceed the significance threshold or there might be a difference in biology. Will have to wait for more data.
    Schwannomas developing specifically: This is the interesting part. Cell phone radiation have wavelength on the order of cm. Such radiation is not ionizing but can still interact with structures in the body (for example, microwave ovens are in the similar region and cause heating of water molecules). In particular, one might expect nerve cells to be particularly vulnerable as they are electrical structures with long axons. Schwann cells are cells that protect nerve cells by building myelin sheath. The finding that the radiation caused Schwann cells in the heart to develop cancer raises suspicion that the radiation exposure affected frequent firing neurons and overworked their support cells.

    This is indeed a matter of concern for humans. While we are exposed at lower levels, we have a much greater tissue cross section than rats. We will live with this type of radiation for many decades, and the most exposed generation are currently very young.

  7. #7
    Senior Contributor DOR's Avatar
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    OK, you're a cancer research specialist and I'm not.
    I'll accept that. I was just citing the report.

    See, when someone knows a subject better than I do, I'll admit it.
    Try it sometime.
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