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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

Cancer center boss seeks to study cell-phone users

Herberman Herberman
AP Enlarge

PITTSBURGH - Following his recent advisory on the potential risks of cell phone use, Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said he plans to develop a research project focusing on long-term cell phone users.

Dr. Herberman said he is holding discussions with a researcher at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Dr. Devra Davis, director of the Pittsburgh cancer institute's Center for Environmental Oncology.

"We don't want to frighten people. We want them to take precautions," Dr. Davis said recently on CNN's Larry King Live.

Dr. Herberman hopes to obtain cell-phone records from companies or customers to try to identify long-term users who might especially be at risk for brain tumors.

He said some studies have tended to rely on users' recollections about their cell phone habits.

He said he plans to seek funding, probably from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Herberman made worldwide news when he apparently became the first U.S. cancer center director to issue an advisory about the potential health risks of cell phone use.

He said last week that he was surprised by the attention.

"Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer," he said in the memo. "Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use."

The advisory suggested measures to limit exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by the devices, including shortening the length of conversations and keeping the phones away from the head by text messaging or using headsets or speakerphone options.

He also recommended in the memo that children not use cell phones except in emergencies.

He acknowledged that some colleagues questioned the scientific basis for linking cell phone use with cancer risk. The American Cancer Society, for example, emphasizes there is no firm evidence tying cell phone use to brain cancer.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Joe Fahy is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Joe Fahy at:


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