The big news of the past week has been a WHO press release indicating that cellphones are a "class 2B carcinogen". Orac at Respectful Insolence explains what the press release really means and summarizes his thoughts on the credibility of a cancer-cellphone link.
There are a lot of problems with the claim that cell phones cause cancer, not the least of which is that the science and epidemiology just don't support it. In particular, the INTERPHONE study, whose results were reported last year, showed no evidence of a link between cell phone use and glioblastoma or meningioma. In fact, to me the decision by WHO is exceedingly puzzling because, if anything, over the last several years the evidence has been trending more and more towards being inconsistent with with a link between cell phone use and brain cancer--or health problems of any kind, other than getting into car crashes because of texting or talking while driving.PZ Myers weighs in as well, noting that the WHO statement is based on the same data that showed there was no credible cancer risk to cell phone use.
"Limited" and "inadequate" are the strongest words they use to describe their own data. They mention one study with the strongest effect…in other words, they highlight the outlier. That's odd and makes me instantly suspicious.PZ continues on a roll, taking on the "dichloroacetate is a cure for cancer" myth that came out of an Alberta study a few years ago.
Also, I recognize those numbers: this is a reworking of the INTERPHONE study from last year, in which the final conclusion was that there was no credible evidence of a cancer risk. What happened? Why has their assessment changed? There is no explanation.
The simple summary is this: that claim is a lie. There have been no clinical trials of dichloroacetate (DCA) in cancer patients, so there is no basis for claiming they have a cure; some, but not all, cancers might respond in promising ways to the drug, while others are likely to be resistant (cancer is not one disease!); and there are potential neurotoxic side effects, especially when used in conjunction with other chemotherapies.PZ then goes on to very nicely explain the science of why DCA *has potential* and how it works, as well as how actual trials might proceed without the involvement of industry who would have nothing to gain financially from DCA as a treatment.
Over at The Spittoon, the blog of personal genome service 23andme, we have a discussion about the importance of cancer genomics.
A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the addition of a PARP inhibitor — a drug that blocks a protein involved in DNA repair — to chemotherapy helped improve survival in patients with an aggressive type of breast cancer. Studies such as these, based on knowledge of cancer genomics, are now allowing us to begin personalizing the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of cancer.The post goes into detail about specific ways cancer genomics are changing our approaches to the disease.
Finally, for those who are interested, HighlightHEALTH is collecting all tweets from or about the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting which is running until June 7, 2011.
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