Mumbai: After the World Health Organization (WHO) stated there could be a 'possible carcinogenic' or cancer risk from cell phone use, many of us have become cautious. But fighting from phone addiction is not everyone’s cup of tea.

WHO’s recent finding that mobile phones might be "possibly carcinogenic" to humans that much more terrifying. Initial concerns started to spring up because of evidence that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by these phones was affecting the brain by causing mutations in cellular growth. The WHO believes this increases an individual's chances of developing Glioma, a malignant brain cancer, especially in people who talk frequently for prolonged periods of time on their cell phones. Radiologist Girish Wardekar says, "It is true that radiation causes cancer, so there is truth to the study, however it is impossible to say if cell phones are the cause, as the evidence is circumstantial."

Here are some tips from experts to find out whether it's time for you to disconnect your number. Plus, what can't-switch-off-my-phone addicts can do to reduce their risk

Switch off Bluetooth devices

Dr Wardekar, however, advises keeping Bluetooth devices switched off when not in use, as the radiation emitted from these devices is of a sizeable amount, and therefore can in the long-term be more harmful than voice calls. Surgical oncologist Dr Murarka suggests switching to a hands-free device, which keeps the phone at a distance from the body, and thereby preventing harmful emissions from reaching the body.

Different study, different results

The largest study on cell phone usage conducted in Denmark, in 2007, came to a contrary conclusion, however. The study, done on 4,20,000 people disproved any direct link between cell phone radiation and cancer. John Boice, lead researcher of the 2007 study, however admitted that he doubted that the results would lay the issue of cell phones and cancer to rest. "As the body of evidence accumulates, people can become more reassured that these devices are safe, even if the final word is not there yet," he was quoted as saying.

Too early to panic

Experts believe it is still premature to jump to conclusions about the link between the two, as we might have to wait several years before concrete evidence can be found. Cancer Council Chief executive, Dr Andrew Penman, was quoted as saying that the links from the WHO study were "very weak" and "inconsistent", and that people need not rush into a state of panic yet. Precautionary measures, including texting instead of calling, avoiding long conversations on the cell phone, coupled with protecting 'at-risk' groups like children are a better approach. Dr Wardekar believes that if one is to take health hazards into concern, cell phones should only be given to individuals 18 and above, once growth is complete. Until then, children are better advised to use cell phones only when absolutely necessary.

Not to be taken lightly

It is likely that the WHO's classification of radiation from mobile phones under Group 2B of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which literally means that there 'could be some risk' but "chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence," might encourage users to take the risk too lightly. However Dr Murarka cautions against this, saying that out of every 10 cases of brain cancer, at least seven are known to indulge in heavy cell phone usage, which makes it hard to ignore the implications. "It is wiser not to ignore the evidence and protect ourselves," he says. Dr Wardekar concludes, "There is no need to panic. Keep abreast with the latest information, and wait for solid evidence. Until then, proceed with precaution -- use your devices intelligently, cut down on usage and do not introduce cell phones into your child's life too soon."

On the Contrary

A 2007 study, done in Denmark, studied 4,20,000 people failed to find a link between cell phone use and cancer. Participants were tracked by matching phone records to people in the Danish cancer registry, who were diagnosed with cancer. Among the 4,20,000 callers tracked through 2002, 14,249 cancers were diagnosed -- less than the 15,001 predicted by national cancer rates. The study did not find an increased risk for tumors either.

Interesting trivia and bans

>> An influential European committee (Council of Europe) recently ruled that cellular devices pose a definitive risk to human health and should therefore be banned from educational institutes, especially schools. This decision came after mounting evidence that linked the device with a variety of health problems.

>> The British Department of Health is urging at-risk groups like children to avoid cell phones for anything, but 'essential purposes'.

Tips to cut back on cell phone usage and reduce radiation
1) Use the landline. Rather than having long drawn out conversations from the comfort of your bed, avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation and pick up your landline when at home.
2) Send an sms instead. Voice calls expose you to the highest amount of radiation. Whenever possible, send a text rather than making a call.
3) Buy a phone with low SAR. When buying a mobile phone, opt for one that has a low SAR or Specific Absorption Rate. An ideal rate is <0.6 W/Kg.
4) Wait for a strong signal. Try to use your cell phone only when the signal quality is good. Cell phones emit much more energy seeking a strong signal when the reception is low, so you automatically lower exposure by following this rule.
5) Keep calls short. Make and/ or receive calls only when absolutely necessary. Once you have delivered the message hang up. Leave long drawn-out conversations for the landline.

(Courtesy: Mid Day)