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Karen Mallet (media only)

Georgetown Expert Comments on WHO Statement that Radiation from Cell Phones Could Cause Cancer

Washington, DC --In a statement released today, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said it would classify radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as that from cellular telephones, as “possibly carcinogenic”. The group made the classification based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.

According to the WHO press release, the IARC Monograph Working Group “discussed and evaluated the available literature on the following exposure categories involving radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: occupational exposures to radar and to microwaves; environmental exposures associated with transmission of signals for radio, television and wireless telecommunication; and personal exposures associated with the use of wireless telephones.”

Peter Shields, M.D., professor of medicine and oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center warns against potential over-reaction to the report, and urges people to observe general good health habits which have a greater impact on reducing cancer risk such as not smoking, limiting alcohol intake and exercising.

“It is very important to understand what the IARC is saying, which is not that cell phones will cause cancer. It is a far cry from that,” he says. “While experimental evidence and very limited, human studies suggest that we should be cautious, people should realize there many things we are exposed to everyday that also is classified by IARC as possibly carcinogenic.

“The classification used by IARC for cell phones is the lowest of all the carcinogenic classes, and no one should think that cell phones pose the same risk as smoking and asbestos. To put this in better perspective, the IARC’s classification for cell phones also includes coffee drinking and working as a carpenter. IARC is saying that we should be cautious and think through what we do when we regulate exposures from cell phones. They follow the precautionary principle and want to maximally protect public health.”

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical Translation and Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. In fiscal year 2009-2010, GUMC accounted for nearly 80 percent of Georgetown University's extramural research funding.


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