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NYers dial away report on possible mobile-phone cancer link

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amny Photo Credit: Danny Ghitis

Not even the risk of cancer will convince New Yorkers to drop their mobile phones.

An alarming report by scientists in the World Health Organization’s cancer division said for the first time Tuesday that there’s a possible link between mobile phone use and brain cancer, and those chatting the most could be at the highest risk.

While the news gave some pause, New Yorkers amNewYork spoke to Tuesday had no plans of hanging up.

"It gives you a lot to think about, but until technology improves, you don't have much of a choice but to use your phone," said John Kim, 20, of upper Manhattan, who talks on his phone about four hours a day.

Angela Louise, of Clinton Hill, who will have to use a mobile phone in her new job, was also unfazed.

“I'm not really worried,” she said. “It’s part of the job.”

Jonathan Samet, a USC professor and chairman of the international panel, noted that the group only examined research over a 10 to 15 year period — so the effects on people those mobile phones for a longer time is a mystery.

The WHO’s classification of cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic” puts it in the same category as chloroform and engine exhaust.

Some experts dismissed the findings.

Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs program, acknowledged that more research is needed before a more definitive tie is established, but said there are still ways to lower exposure to radiation from phones.

“If you use [your phone] for texting or if you use a hands free set for your voice calls, this is clearly lowering your exposure,” Straif said.

“The news, fear and panic in this area appears to be unfounded,” said Theodore Schwartz, professor of neurosurgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital. "Most experts do not feel there is any convincing link between cell phone use and brain tumors.”

John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association — a trade group — also rejected the organization's announcement.

“IARC conducts numerous reviews and in the past has given the same score to, for example, pickled vegetables and coffee,” Walls said in a statement. “This IARC classification does not mean that cell phones cause cancer.”

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration said in an email it would review the new research, but added, “the existing weight of scientific evidence does not show an association between exposure to non-thermal radio frequency energy and adverse health outcomes.” The Federal Communications Commission also dismisses a link between cell phones and cancer.

Either way, Trey Bliss, 27, of Flatbush said he’ll keep chatting on his iPhone.

"I already smoke, so it's not like I'm worried about cancer," Bliss said.

(with Erik Ortiz)

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Some ways to reduce risk of cancer

Using a mobile phone is unavoidable for many of us, so here are a few tips to help limit your radiation exposure:

- The further your phone is from your body, the less radiation you’ll absorb, so consider a headset when talking on your phone and don’t keep it in your pocket or on your belt.
- Phones give off more radiation when the signal is weak, so keep yours away from your body when it’s searching and don’t make calls when you have bad service.
- If you’re in the car, try using speakerphone. Phones emit more radiation when they’re intensely looking for a signal.
- Children are more susceptible to the radiation, so have them use a landline when possible.
- Keep calls brief to minimize exposure.

(Sources: Environmental Working Group, EMF-Health)

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