Do cell phones increase brain cancer risk? - That's what a neurosurgeon at Lake Forest Hospital has dealt with in his editorial, delving into one of the biggest scientific concerns in recent times.
Pawl has called for major research initiatives to assess the possibility that using cellular phones may lead to an increased risk of brain tumors.
The editorial states that recent studies have raised concerns that long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields (ELF) from cell-phone handsets can increase the risk of brain cancers and other nervous system tumors.
Since a long time, scientists are worried that ELF exposure may increase the risk of brain cancers. But, till date, research has shown no clear link between cell phone use and brain tumors.
A Swedish research earlier this year, indicated an increased risk of brain cancers (gliomas) as well as acoustic nerve tumors (neuromas) in people using cell phones for ten years or longer. It said that tumors were more likely to develop on the same side as the cell phone was used.
Other studies by the same group suggested that the use of wireless handsets in cordless home phones posed the same risk.
In fact, after reviewing the evidence, one author suggested that long-term cell phone use is "more dangerous to health than smoking cigarettes." Other recent commentators have raised similar concerns.
With the ever-increasing use of cell phones, including widespread use by children and teenagers, the findings have become a great deal of concern. The damaging effects of ELF, if any, might be even greater in the developing brain.
But, if the findings were true, there would have been instances of increased rates of brain cancers over the last two decades.
Some studies have reported that this is the case, particularly for the most malignant brain cancers. However, other studies have found a stable tumor rate.
Some experts have suggested that apparent increases in the number of brain cancers might reflect the use of sophisticated imaging techniques like computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.
"However, the fact that the incidence of gliomas, especially the more malignant varieties, is increasing [...] warrants action on this issue," wrote Pawl.
According to Pawl, the main problem is that no other research groups have performed actual studies showing a clear relationship between brain tumors and ELF.
He has called on scientific societies to play a leading role in designing and conducting studies that will definitively determine the risks of brain cancer associated with ELF exposure, particularly from cell phones.
"It seems that a cooperative effort by both the scientific community and state governing bodies will be needed. Some spearhead is now necessary in view of the magnitude and seriousness of the situation," wrote Pawl.
Pawl's editorial is published in the November issue of the journal Surgical Neurology.