The talks about harmful radiations started during war times. Korean War Navy veterans exposed to high levels of microwave radiation emitted from radar equipment were no more likely than other men to develop most forms of cancer--including lung, brain and testicular cancers--over a 40-year period, according to a recent report.
Men with the highest exposure to radar waves those who repaired and tested the radar equipment were 30% less likely to die during the follow-up than men in the general US population.
Dr. Robert E. Tarone of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, found little, of adverse health effects resulting from microwave frequencies. One exception reported by Tarone and his colleagues, however, was that aviation electronics technicians, one group of highly exposed veterans, were more than twice as likely as other men to develop a type of cancer called non-lymphocytic leukemia.
However, the authors note that if radiation from radar was to blame, other highly exposed veterans would demonstrate the same increased risk. They suggest the increased risk is more likely to do with occupational exposures other than radar, lifestyle factors that are specific to this group, or simply chance.
The results, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, stem from a 45-year follow-up of 42,444 Korean War Navy veterans designed to study the long-term impact of high levels of microwave radiation on health.
Tarone cautioned that low-energy radiation emitted by radar detectors, cell phones and microwaves is different from extremely high-energy radiation like x-rays, which, as numerous studies have shown, can cause harm. Furthermore, he explained that the Navy veterans followed in this study were exposed to much more radiation than we get today from our phones and machines.
He felt that the average person would never be exposed to the high levels of radar waves that the Navy technicians were exposed to. Tarone explained that the finding that highly exposed veterans lived longer than men in the general population likely results from the "healthy soldier" effect. People have to pass physical exams to enter the Navy, he said, and must maintain their fitness while in service. Therefore, veterans are likely healthier to begin with than the general population, and may tend to exercise more.