Cell phones a brain cancer risk, says top doc

Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 7/7/2009 9:52 PM EDT

Dr. Keith Black is America's top neurosurgeon and interestingly, one of his most extraordinary cases involved a young Dublin man named Gerald Kelly who had been given up for dead in Ireland and who came to him in Los Angeles for a final chance at life.

He talks about Gerald and his brother Thomas who was with him every step of the way as two of the bravest people he ever encountered in his new book "Brain Surgeon."

It is an inspirational read. He gave Gerard an extra lease on life after a very complicated surgery, and he lived far longer than other patients with the deadly disease. Black notes that he would want all his patients to fight their deadly disease with the "same courage and determination as Gerald."

Black also has a very serious purpose in mind writing the book. He is warning us all that cell phones cause brain cancer. Black, chair of neurosurgery at UCLA in Los Angeles, has gone public with his fears after seeing a large upsurge in brain cancer cases, especially among young people.

In his new book, Black sends a clear warning that we all may find out too late that cell phones are a major factor in brain tumors."We certainly have enough evidence today to suggest that the prudent individual should take precautions," he says.

"Brain tumors are a source of microwave radiation," he writes. A Swedish study showed that individuals using cell phones for an hour a day increased their risk of brain tumors by two and a half times." Other studies are not so definitive he says, but he is betting there is a clear connection partly because he says most brain tumors are very slow growing and are not being picked up by statistics yet.

He believes there is a connection because he has linked a specific type of brain tumor, one that begins in the ear passageway, to cell phone usage. He sees among his patients a clear connection between which side of the head this tumor appears and which ear the person listens to the cell phone on.

"The problem comes from holding the cell phone in contact with the ear, bringing the microwave radiation emitted by the device close to t he brain" he says.

He is specifically worried for children. He notes that in laboratory tests it is much easier to induce tumors in young rats than in older ones.

"We know that because children's brains are still developing, they can be more susceptible than grown-ups to tumor formation." he says.

He notes that an entire generations of people now use cell phones exclusively -- and that the rates of brain cancer are climbing fastest among the young "Brain cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in the people under the age of nineteen," he notes.

He has strong warnings for parents who allow their kids to use their cell phones as often as they like. "I believe it is wise for parents to curtail cell phone usage in their children, he writes."Yet he says for both parents and children the solution may be obvious--use an earpiece."

"I myself use an earpiece and I encourage my patients to do the same." he says. He does not recommend Bluetooth devices saying "they are a source of some radiation themselves."

He says cell phone manufacturers are clearly aware that there is a potential risk. "Because microwave radiations diminishes with distance, cell phone manuals advise us to hold the phone a certain distance from our heads. Unfortunately, not many people follow these instructions," he notes.

In his book, Black who is African-American, writes about this incredible rise growing up as the son of a black schoolteacher in segregated Alabama to the top neurosurgeon in America.It is an inspirational story and one well worth reading.

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