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'Don't throw your cell phones away' - Expert cautions against alarm as study links rat cancer to phone radiation

A New Zealand cancer expert says while a study concluding that mobile phone radiation can cause heart cancer in male rats is interesting, it's not cause for alarm in humans.

The US federal peer-reviewed study concluded in March that exposure to low frequency radio waves, like those which are emitted by mobile phones, can cause cancer in the animals, which is the first clear evidence of a biological link between the radiation and cancer.

Dr Chris Jackson, Medical Director of Cancer Society NZ, this morning told TVNZ 1's Breakfast that while the study is interesting and has some implications on cell phone usage, it is not yet reasonable for people to be alarmed.

"What this study has done for the first time is shown there's a biological mechanism for how cellphones might potentially have some impact on cancer ... up until now there's not been a clear biological explanation for how that might be the case," Dr Jackson said.

"It's shown that prolonged exposure to low levels of radiation may actually potentially lead to cancers.

"This effect has been seen in rats, not in mice, and as yet it hasn't been proven in humans - so I think we're a long way away from saying that cell phones cause cancer in humans.

"There's certainly conflicting evidence in humans - this is only an animal study ... so it's clearly not a conclusive finding at all but it's the first potential biological explanation."

Dr Jackson said the increasing use of cell phones, especially over the past ten years, is a good reason to continue to look into this, but that people should avoid jumping to conclusions until more research is done.

"I think we do see this concern every time there's a new technology around ... same with microwaves, same with television," he said.

"I think it's reasonable for people to be cautious about this and that's why it's important that research is done - and done well."

Dr Jackson said the long lead-in time between exposure to radiation and the development of cancer was a difficult issue for researchers, but that studies are ongoing.

"There are a number of worldwide efforts looking at the rates of certain types of brain cancer in high cell phone usage areas to see if there is indeed a link in humans, but that may be a number of years away," he said.

"In the meantime, if people are concerned about their risk of cancer from cellphone use, there's a number of things people can do - you can use an earpiece or you can use hands free, or you can perhaps spend a little bit less time on your phone.

"So no, dont throw your cellphones away just yet, but it's important to watch this space."

Cancer society's Medical Director Dr Chris Jackson says the study was only on rats, but does have some interesting implications. Source: Breakfast