Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Can we now put this hysteria to rest?

It wasn't that long ago that the anti-technology Luddites were telling us that cell phones cause cancer. No surprise they'd say that. Everything causes cancer. Just ask them.

Now this was pooh-poohed by most researchers when the claims were made. But on they went making them over and over again. And then there were studies and more studies and none confirmed the claim that cell phones cause cancer. A group calling itself the National Institute for Working Life said cell phones cause cancer. They are what you'd call very PC and very Left. Maybe I should say were since they were funded entirely out of the pockets of Swedish taxpayers and the Swedish government just ended their funding. But these guys weren't alone by any means.

Now how did they come to their conclusion? Well, most people would look at cell phone users and see how many had cancer. They you'd see if they had higher, lower or similar rates of cancer compared to a similar group of non-cell phone users. Our PC friends had a different method in mind. They started with 2,200 cancer patients and looked at 905 with brain tumours and discovered "a tenth of these patients were heavy mobile phone users." Somehow I think that if you took an average poll of people you'd find that about a tenth of them are heavy cell phone users as well. The issue is not whether some cell phone users contracted cancer. The issue is whether they contract cancer at higher rates than non users.

Now a really major study of cell phone users says that use of cell phone does not increase one's risk for cancer. Actually study after study have shown that for years. This one is different because it tracked 420,000 cell phone users and was published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And 56,000 of the people they looked at had been using cell phones for more than 10 years. And by using cell phone records they were able to document how much time people spent on the phones instead of having to rely on memory, which is very faulty.

They find no evidence, and that is no as in zero, none nada, not a shred, that cell phone usage raises the risk for cancer. The BBC reports that another survey by the Institute for Cancer Research this year said the same ting. A few years back the UK government had a study done which said the same thing. But still "the government currently advises mobile phone users to keep their call times short." Nanny strikes again. Of course this is the same UK government that is an a lather over liquid bombs on planes -- somethings chemists say would be damn difficult to do on an airplane.

H.L. Mencken said: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." And to think I thought Mencken never met Tony Blair!