Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mobile Phone Use and Cancer: BAD RESEARCH

I recently was forwarded an online report stating that a recent study determined that mobile phones are more dangerous than smoking. I have seen the author,Vini Gautam Khurana, M.D. referred online as a "cancer expert" Well, hello internet! I too consider myself a cancer expert. And I would tell you right here and now that you need to stop smoking...but I'm currently on my cell phone.

If I wasn't currently working on my dissertation and coming up on my final weeks(!) in my program, I might turn around and change my topic to the media and cancer sensationalism and mythology.

For my due diligence and soapbox needs, I will point out a few things about this "study:"

1. It is not a peer reviewed study. I found it online, and in anything near it's current form, it is NOT going to pass muster for publication in any quality medical journal.

2. The author is a neurosurgeon. Learning how to poke in someone's brain doesn't mean he's ever been taught how to conduct, understand, or report epidemiologic or population-based research or systematic reviews. For example, the author is clearly unfamiliar with current
standards for conducting or writing systematic reviews of the scientific and medical literature.

3. Smoking is really really bad for you. Actual expert organizations like NIH and NCI and peer-reviewed research science has demonstrated smoking to be the leading preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. One of every five deaths can be linked to tobacco-related disease. This is not the case with mobile (cell) phones. While they are linked to road injuries for example, research to date does not demonstrate that cell phones cause cancer.

4. n.b.--This is not new or original research. It is a misinterpretation of existing research.

5. Remember, in the world of risk perception, things we don't clearly understand and are invisible to the eye, like radiation, tend to scare us more than our everyday, prosaic risks (e.g. cigarettes or automobiles) that are far more dangerous.

6. A note to other scientists: just because you're writing for the lay public doesn't mean you should purposefully obscure your scientific methods and fail to discuss your research limitations.

7. The internet is filled with bullshit, lots and lots of incorrect information that is not fact checked or discussed objectively by actual experts. Cancer epidemiology is complex, our bodies are complex and we don't fully understand how they work. Be wary of ANY health information that makes strong claims. Subject any source about the "causes" or "cures" of cancer to suspicion and critique.

For legitimate and trustworthy information on cancer risk and risk factors, including cell phones and cigarette smoking, turn to the National Cancer Institute, International Agency for Research on Cancer, or the American Cancer Society.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess who else is talking about it...lawyers.


11:18 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home