The debate surrounding mobile phones and whether they can cause cancer has raged for the better part of the last two decades, but the jury is still out. Well, at least the U.S. jury is still out. In Italy, a court has just ruled that mobile phones can indeed cause cancer.
In what is being called a landmark case, Italy's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Innocente Marcolini (not pictured above), a 60-year-old man who claimed he developed a brain tumor after 12 years of heavy mobile phone use, roughly five to six hours per day. According to the report, the non-cancerous tumor was found on the trigeminal nerve, near where Marcolini used his cellphone for years. Although the court stressed that its ruling is not a direct claim that mobile phones cause cancer, it found the studies presented detailing the supposed safety of mobile phone use to be insufficiently convincing.
Major studies have been published offering claims that mobile phones do not cause cancer, nevertheless we continue to see high-profile cases of individuals stepping forward with assertions that their mobile phones are the cause of their tumors. Thus, the significance of this ruling in Italy is that it could spark a number of related international lawsuits or claims for worker compensation by others who believe that their health condition may be linked to mobile phone use.
And while both sides of the argument have made interesting observations — some backed by science, others by anecdotal information — what has likely stoked the ongoing uncertainty about the issue is the fact that we still don't completely understand for sure why some 90-year-old life-long chain smokers don't develop lung cancer, and some non-smoking 30-year-olds develop aggressive forms of the disease. In the main, cancer remains a mystery. Pair the unanswered questions surrounding cancer with the still developing science of detecting how our gadgets, or, heaven forbid, even Wi-Fi, may or may not impact our health and you have the makings of an ongoing quiet panic that our mobile phones may, in fact, be too good to be true.
Most will read of Marcolini's account and call "horse petooties," citing the studies that have cleared mobile phones as safe. Others will recall the paper published last year by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of the World Health Organization), which classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
We're certainly no authority on the contentious issue, but if you're reading all this and wondering if you have to give up your precious smartphone, the World Health Organization may offer some solace via another statement it published last year which said, "To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use."