WHO mobile phone-cancer link 'very weak': medical expert
Medical experts say the public should not be alarmed by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) findings that mobile phone usage could be linked to cancer.
The WHO has classified mobile phone usage as possibly carcinogenic after reviewing the available evidence.
But it also says more research is needed and cancer specialists say that if people are worried there are ways for them to reduce their exposure to the risks.
The WHO findings come after 31 scientists from 14 countries met for a week to review the evidence to date on whether electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones is linked to cancer.
The answer was inconclusive but WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) gave mobile phone usage a category 2B classification, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The agency says there is some limited evidence for a link between mobile phones and gliomas, a type of brain cancer.
The evidence was inadequate to draw conclusions for other cancers.
Cancer Council NSW chief executive Dr Andrew Penman says people should not panic about the findings.
"I think it's an admission by the WHO that the evidence such as it is in mobile phones and cancer is very weak," he said.
"Sure, it recognises there are some studies that show an increased risk for brain cancer but this is very inconsistent."
Dr Penman says the 2B classification category only means a link is possible.
"We continue to say that we think the evidence is weak. People should not be unduly alarmed but it is wise to take precautions about your degree of exposure to mobile phone and other microwave radiation," he said.
"So in the case of mobile phones, the use of hands-free systems, the use of texting rather than telephone conversation and the use of landlines, all play a role I think in reducing the degree of exposure."
Dr Penman says he believes the WHO are just being cautious by reporting these findings.
"I think it is extraordinarily difficult scientifically to absolutely rule out the possibility [of a cancer link]," he said.
"It's in many ways easier to find a positive association than it is to rule out a negative association.
"I think WHO is really just being very cautious on this issue."
IARC director Christopher Wild says more research is being carried out.
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association chief executive, Chris Althaus, says while he supports further research, he does not expect it to find a link.
"If the past is any guide, no they won't find anything because there's just no concrete evidence anywhere and this is after decades of very, very close study," he said.
"So we're not expecting something to be found."
IARC says it will publish a concise report online summarising its main conclusions in the next few days.