The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement on May 30, 2011 that it has reclassified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields such as those used in cell phones as “possibly cancer-causing to humans.” WHO based its reclassification on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer that is associated with wireless phone use.
A working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries critically evaluated hundreds of existing scientific articles that included exposure data, the studies of cancer in humans, the studies of cancer in experimental animals, and the mechanistic and other relevant data.
The group’s Chairman, Dr. Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, said it was determined there is not enough long-term evidence to link cancer and cell phone use directly, but there is enough information to issue an alert.
"The evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk," he said.
While the group did not quantify the risk, one study of past cell phone use—up to the year 2004—showed a 40 percent increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users; those who reported using their cell phones on average 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period.
According to the GLOBOCAN Project, a 2008 record of cancer incidence and mortality worldwide, 237,913 new cases of brain cancer of all types were reported. Of those, two-thirds were gliomas. The number of wireless phone subscriptions is estimated at 5 billion globally.
A 2B Classification puts wireless phones in the same hazard category as chloroform, engine exhaust and coffee. In all, there are 266 hazard agents in the 2B group.
The group acknowledged the possibility that mobile phone exposures might induce long‐term health effects, in particular an increased risk for cancer.