Although 80 percent of mobile users are aware of a recent World Health Organization report that cell phones could possibly cause brain cancer, less than 20 percent plan to do anything about it, market-research firm TNS reveals.
The firm conducted a poll of consumers to gauge their reaction to the May 31 warning by WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which claimed that cell phone use could be "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
From May 24-31, scientists gathered in Lyon, France, to discuss exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields, which mobile phones emit. The IARC published its full report on its Monographs Web site.
In reaction to the WHO report, 8 percent of respondents to the TNS poll planned to reduce their cell phone usage and another 8 percent said they'll purchase a hands-free accessory such as a Bluetooth headset.
"The high degree of awareness about the recent news and relatively low rates of change in behavior really demonstrate the ubiquity of mobile usage and its importance in daily life," Charles White, senior vice president at TNS, said in a statement. "Given the direct correlation between radiation emitted by cell phones and cancer rates remains unclear, I think the risks would need to be much more pronounced to see significant impact on usage."
In addition, of those respondents who own hands-free devices, 17 percent planned to use them more often, according to the TNS poll results announced on June 16.
Mobile use will, of course, grow despite the WHO report. CTIA-The Wireless Association and wireless industry analysts spoke out against the WHO's warning, saying more research is required before sounding the alarms against cell phone use.
Gregg Malkary, founder and managing director of Spyglass Consulting Group, told eWEEK that the WHO was doing the public a disservice by issuing a warning without backing it up with substantial research.
"In some ways I think it was premature for the WHO to issue this warning without a lot more substance," he said. "All they did was create fear, uncertainty and doubt."
Meanwhile, the brain tumors that cell phone users have developed are not caused by the mobile use, according to a study by the University of Tampere in Finland.
Cell phones emit 90 percent of its radiation within 5 centimeters of the device, and tumors were not likely to be located this close to the device, the Finnish report concluded.
For the study, published on May 24 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Dr. Suvi Larjavaara and colleagues at the University of Tampere in Finland mapped a type of brain tumors called gliomas in 888 patients in seven European countries from 2000-2004.
"These results do not suggest that gliomas in mobile phone users are preferentially located in the parts of the brain with the highest radio-frequency fields from mobile phones," the authors concluded.
Still, the Finnish study is inconclusive, Larjavaara told Reuters Health, since a period of at least 10 years of cell phone use would yield more complete results. Of mobile phone users surveyed, only 5 percent had used the devices for at least 10 years.