Sheryl Crow didn't get cancer from a cellphone

Ever since I saw her open for Bob Dylan at Roseland just before or just after Tuesday Night Music Club hit, I've been a fan of Sheryl Crow. Everyday is a winding road. But earlier this week, Crow really did go out of her head on Katie Couric, when she claimed her cellphone could have been a contributing factor to the development of her meningioma, a benign brain tumor.

Horse petooties.

The odds of Sheryl Crow's cellphone causing her brain tumor are about the same as her on-stage ear monitors triggering it, or perhaps it was the one other product her head spends the most time against — her bed pillow.

How do I know cellphones didn't cause her tumors? Science.

Every couple of months, some new scary report surfaces linking cellphone/smartphone usage with causing cancers. Or they can spoil your sleep. Or they can make a man less fecund. Or at least that's how the lamestream media poorly interprets the "conclusions" of these periodic reports.

Last year, it was an announcement by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), linking cellphones with certain types of cancer.

Except all WHO/IARC di was add cellphones to the same list of 266 other possible carcinogens as something called "caffeic acid" — otherwise known as coffee.

Maybe Sheryl Crow is a coffee drinker.

WHO's cause-and-effect conclusions were based on a collection of older tests, most akin to forcing a squirrel to smoke the equivalent of 100 joints a day and concluding pot is bad for you (in this case, holding the phone against your head for 30 minutes a day every day for 10 years — if this describes your cell behavior, cancer is the least of your problems).

And even if the study's methodology was completely accurate, based on WHO's conclusions (and let's keep the Abbott & Costello jokes to a minimum), the potential — and I stress potential — increase in cancers in the general population was found to be negligible.

The Truthiness Of Cell Radiation

Most of the irrational fear of cellphones causing cancer emanates from the word "radiation." Using Platonic logic, cellphones emit radiation, radiation is bad for you. Ergo, i.e., e.g., QED, PDQ, ipso facto, LMFAO, cellphone radiation is bad for you.

I'm not saying radiation is good for you. But ALL electronic devices emit radiation. True, we don't maintain the up-close-to-the-brain-and-personal relationship with our HDTV or our clock radio as we do with a cellphone. This intimate cellphone proximity to sensitive body parts is why the FCC requires cellphone makers to list a handset's Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) — even though the FCC whimsically admits:

…a single SAR value does not provide sufficient information about the amount of RF exposure under typical usage conditions to reliably compare individual cell phone models.

Well, then, that's helpful.

Then there's the whole cigarette analogy — for years, everyone insisted cigarettes were good for you until it turned out cigarettes were bad for you. Ergo, i.e., e.g., QED, PDQ, ipso facto, ROTFLMAO, same thing with cellphones — where there's smoke, there's cancer (to coin a mixed metaphor).

But these are all Stephen Colbert memorial arguments — they feel truthful.

The facts, however, indicate the opposite.

The Truth About Cellphone Radiation

Simply put, not a single solitary scientifically acceptable study has found a cause-and-effect link between cellphone usage and cancer. None. Zippo. Zero.

The cancer truthiness crowd claims the reason scientists have failed to find a link is because there hasn't been enough time to reach their desired conclusions — cancers take years to manifest after steady cellphone usage, and cell phones haven't been around or used long enough.

Wrong again.

Last October, the Danes announced the results of a 35-year cellphone usage study, which tracked nearly 400,000 cell subscribers (Danes each have a national ID number, and cell carriers use this ID to ID users, so the government knows who's been using cellphones and who hasn't since 1981).

The Danish conclusion?

…there were no increased risks of tumours of the central nervous system, providing little evidence for a causal association.

The Ugly Truth

Just as there continue to be birthers and anti-evolutionists and global warning deniers and the-moon-landing-was-a-Hollywood-hoaxers who refuse to face scientific fact, there are those who question the methodology that led to the Danish conclusions.

Scientifically, that's fair. But I've got one more stubborn fact to help ease Sheryl Crow's — are your — mind.

Actual cancer rates.

Every March, the National Cancer Institute issues an "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-20XX." The most recent report reports on cancer statistics of all kinds through 2008, and produced several statistical points related to the whole cellphones-cause-cancer discussion:

  • Overall cancer death rates have continued to decrease since the early 1990s
  • From 2004 through 2008, incidence rates for all cancers combined declined 0.6 percent per year among men. Among women, cancer incidence rates declined 0.5 percent per year from 1998 to 2006 with rates leveling off from 2006 to 2008
  • Between 2004 through 2008 incidence rates for all cancers combined decreased 3.0 percent among men and stabilized among women

So, in the age of the cellphone, most cancer rates have DECLINED, including all brain cancers in both men and women.

Check the stats for yourself.

So, if cellphones cause cancer, how has the incidence of cancers decreased over the last two decades?

What keeps the cancer rates from trimming even more? Our own inability to trim even more:

"…excess weight and lack of sufficient physical activity contribute to the increased incidence of many cancers, adversely affect quality of life for cancer survivors, and may worsen prognosis for several cancers."

No, Sheryl, your cellphone did not contribute to your benign brain tumor. And for the rest of you cellphone scardy cats, just eat right and exercise as you chat and you'll be fine.

Cellphone frame image via L_amica/Shutterstock; biohazard symbol image via Skinny boy/Shutterstock

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