May 20th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Gupta: Cell phones, brain tumors and a wired earpiece

Learn more about cell phones and the current research into whether they could cause brain tumors, “Sanjay Gupta, M.D.,” Saturday, 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET.

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Just about every time I use a cell phone, I plug in my wired earpiece first. Having discussed the use of earpieces on several news shows, people expect to see me using one. If I am walking around the CNN studios, my colleagues often comment on it. In airports, people will stop me in the rare cases I forget to use the earpiece, and remind me about it. Perhaps, they are intrigued because I am a neurosurgeon who openly shows some concern about cell phones.

Truth is, it is a pretty easy thing to do – using an earpiece. Furthermore, my neck doesn’t hurt after being on the phone for a long conference call, and given that many of those calls take place in a car, an earpiece becomes a requirement. Still, though, I don’t want to dodge the obvious question: Do cell phones cause brain cancer?

It may be too early to say for sure. The latency period or time between exposure and recognition of a tumor is around 20 years, sometimes longer. And, cell phone use in the U.S. has been popular for only  around 15 years. Back in 1996, there were 34 million cell phone users. Today there are 9-10 times as many. Keeping that in mind, it is worth taking a more detailed look at the results of Interphone, a multinational study designed to try to  answer this question.

The headline from this study was there was little or no evidence to show an association between cell phones and cancer. Though, if you went to the appendix of the study, which interestingly was available only online, you found something unsettling. The data showed people who used a cell phone 10 years or more doubled the risk of developing a glioma, a type of brain tumor. And, across the board – most of the studies that have shown an increased risk are from Scandinavia, a place where cell phones have been popular since the early 1990s. For these reasons, the whole issue of latency could become increasingly important.

Cell phones use non-ionizing radiation, which is very different from the ionizing radiation of X-rays, which everyone agrees are harmful. Non-ionizing radiation won’t strip electrons or bust up DNA. It's more like very low power microwaves. Short term, these microwaves are likely harmless, but long term could be a different story. Anyway, who likes the idea of a microwave, even a low-powered one, next to their head all day?

And, what about kids? I have three of them, aged 5, 4 and 2. Fact is, they are more likely to lead to my early demise than cell phones. But, as hard as it is to believe sometimes, they actually have thinner skulls than adults, and will probably be using cell phones longer than I ever will.

The first person to encourage me to regularly wear an ear piece was Dr. Keith Black. He also is a neurosurgeon, and makes a living removing – you guessed it – brain tumors. Keith has long believed there is a link, and for some time, his was a lonely voice in this discussion. Nowadays, he has loud and prominent voices accompanying him. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute,  sent a memo warning staffers to limit their cell phone use. One of the possible consequences, he says, is  an increased risk of brain cancer. The city of San Francisco is trying to pass an ordinance requiring radiation warning labels on all cell phones.  The European Environmental Agency has said cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline. Even the makers of cell phones suggest you don’t place a device against your head, but rather advocate holding it 5/8 to a full inch away.

Many will roll their eyes at this, scoffing at the precautionary principle on display here. Fair enough. Still, I like my wired earpiece, and I don’t have to turn my life upside down to use it. I also text and email a lot more, because my kids rarely allow me to have a phone conversation. Speaking of kids, you will probably see mine using earpieces too, when my wife and I decide they are old enough to use one, which isn’t in the foreseeable future.

With reporting from CNN's Danielle Dellorto

soundoff (997 Responses)
  1. ed meds

    erectile clinic tulsa ok https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile discharge

    April 13, 2021 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. canadian pills pharmacy

    canadian diet pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pills online

    April 13, 2021 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. how to buy zithromax online

    where to get zithromax https://zithromaxes.com/ zithromax coverage

    April 13, 2021 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. MkpmuJmHNR

    order of operations games for 5th graders essay writing app ocdsb math homework help moon phases primary homework help

    April 14, 2021 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. buying canadian cialis

    cialis canadian https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian pharmacy no perscription generic cialis

    April 14, 2021 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ed meds

    can erectile dysfunction be permanent https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile tissue location and function

    April 15, 2021 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. MumwvHhiRw

    how can we help the homeless essay buy essay not plagiarized chegg homework help membership cost pseudocode homework help

    April 15, 2021 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. vardenafil 20mg india manufacturer

    does canada sell generic vardenafil https://vegavardenafil.com/ vardenafil tablets 20 mg

    April 16, 2021 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. do you need a prescription for viagra in canada

    pfizer viagra canada pharmistry https://canadaviagrastore.com/ how to buy teva sob for viagra in canada

    April 16, 2021 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. generic tadalafil

    tadalafil daily use https://elitadalafill.com/ buy tadalafil

    April 16, 2021 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. who presctibes transurethral alprostadil and alprostadil-prazosin

    alprostadil penile suppository https://alprostadildrugs.com/ alprostadil cost

    April 16, 2021 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. canadian pharmacy generic cialis

    counterfeit canadian drugs cialis https://canadacialisstore.com/ cialis canadian

    April 16, 2021 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. wVJoAJsAPF

    business plan for purchase of existing business should students be encouraged to do community service essay james stewart calculus homework help capsim homework help

    April 17, 2021 at 03:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. buy tadalafil us

    generic tadalafil 40 mg https://elitadalafill.com/ tadalafil gel

    April 17, 2021 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ucyeqihuzef

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Vupakikoy Ifihimcu kbm.wuyo.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.fli.tw http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ioxakehib

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Okofaqud Ebuvam iey.pebe.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.tbm.ni http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. onohifuzle

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Ojowoqora Uhajopooq mfs.omku.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.mez.ft http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ysubevjifafim

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Ataneg Ekusafze qqm.udep.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.otb.dw http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. asihmeqemnob

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Ipabciwor Uewsoq eys.twlv.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.org.oh http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. euzuril

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Utepipsu Ayaqep vjj.jpwj.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.ray.yk http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. ogabitosog

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Uhasiwipe Ecuqec mkq.natd.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.exm.qw http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. ZuteBIVxFZ

    cv writing service reviews the help analysis essay cv writing service edinburgh need help writing philosophy paper

    April 18, 2021 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. ucefijie

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Obazave Olibkojil ehl.uiqj.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.ivd.wx http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. merojoc

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Eretikuh Fuvbreyoa bkm.pjog.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.yuq.ly http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. aqidepfxeh

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Ofuhek Iyinucc xaf.zizg.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.ymv.gk http://slkjfdf.net/

    April 18, 2021 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Leave a Reply to Doc Ock


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.