Warning: Cancer Warnings May Cause Cancer

Today there was another “X may cause cancer” scare. This time the culprit was cell phones, or more accurately the use of cell phones. There have been many attempts to find a correlation between cell phone use and cancer, especially brain cancer. The legal profession would love cell phones to be a cancer cause, can you imagine the lawsuit possibilities?

Let me start with a simple to read rebuttal to the cell phone cancer scare found here: LiveScience

All “X might cause cancer” stories end in the same way: better to be safe than sorry. Well, that’s not really correct. For example, in an effort to reduce the effect of radio waves on the brain people are using Bluetooth headsets. Well guess what, Bluetooth is also a radio, but now instead of being an inch from your head they are inside your head. On top of it, Bluetooth uses the same radio frequencies used by microwave ovens, known to actually cook food. Scientifically speaking, however, Bluetooth’s output power is about one-millionth the power level of a microwave oven.

When scared, people often move to eliminate the scary thing even if the alternative is completely unknown. People and governments will even replace a generally known but mild problem with an esoteric and completely unknown potential problem. A good example of that was the replacement of lead in gasoline with MTBE. Turns out MTBE is a lot worse than lead ever was.

We think we live in an age of enlightenment where Science trumps Sorcery, but we do not. Four hundred years ago people might have said that “evil spirits cause cancer”, today it is cell phones.

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