MASSDEVICE ON CALL — A global research panel added cell phones to a list of possible cancer-causing agents after conducting a review of dozens of published studies on cell phone radiation.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, classified cell phone radiation as "possibly carcinogenic," putting it in the same category as coffee and gasoline engine exhaust.
The verdict means that there is some evidence linking cell phones and cancer, but the scientific connection is too weak to draw solid conclusions.
"We found some threads of evidence telling us how cancers might occur, but there were acknowledged gaps and uncertainties," Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, the panel’s chairman, told the Washington Post.
Cell phones use radio frequency waves similar to FM radio and microwaves, but different from stronger waves like x-rays or ultraviolet light. Some experts recommend that people use headsets if they are worried, but the WHO hasn’t yet announced any guidance.
“If there is a risk, most of it goes away with a wireless earpiece,” Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, told the Post, adding that cell phones pose a much more immediate danger. "Cell phones may cause brain tumors but they kill far more people through automobile accidents," he said.
Exposed Biotronik documents continue to raise eyebrows
Biotronik documents discussing sales tactics continue to raise eyebrows about the company’s relationship with doctors. New information released by the New York Times, which received private company documents from a former Biotronik employee involved in a dispute with the company, suggests that several more doctors receiving consulting pay from the cardiac device maker gave preference to Biotronik’s devices.
In one company memo Dr. Monty Morales, a Tucson cardiologist on Biotronik’s payroll, described how he refused to refer patients to an implant specialist in his area, Dr. Darren Peress, unless Peress started implanting Biotronik devices, according to the Times.
Suspicions were first piqued in April, when a Times report on Biotronik consulting fees paid to doctors at Las Vegas hospitals lead Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) to ask the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services to look into whether patients were put at risk or if improper billings had been made.
Consumer DNA tests found inaccurate, unhelpful
Many European geneticists believe that direct-to-consumer genetic tests should be banned due to their inaccurate predictions of disease risks. Researchers in the Netherlands worked with Boston scientists to examine risk predictions supplied by two large consumer DNA-testing companies, Iceland-based deCODEme and U.S. company 23andMe.
The researchers found that the companies tend to overstate the potential of their tests, and found disease risk among more of the results than would be expected based on statistical information about the existence of the disease in populations.
"The companies’ tendency to overstate the potential of predictive information does not help to produce a public properly educated about the potential value and limitations of genetic information. This is particularly true when it comes to whole genome scans, where a lot of results are given for many different conditions," the researchers said.
Cell phones: more bad news
Researchers in Washington D.C. found that cell phones used by patients and their visitors were twice as likely to contain potentially dangerous bacteria as those of healthcare workers, according to a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
A research team at the Department of Medical Microbiology at Inonu University in Malatya, Turkey collected samples from the keypad, microphone and ear piece of about 200 cell phones, and found that those belonging to patients were nearly 20 percent more likely to test positive for pathogens.
Outbreak: E. coli spreads through Europe
A European outbreak of E. coli has killed 14 people in Germany and left hundreds others sick, the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog reports.
Cucumbers from Spain have been targeted as a possible source of contamination, but Spanish officials say the outbreak didn’t begin with them. Cucumbers from the Netherlands or Denmark are also under investigation, according to Health Blog.