Call it the Grinch who stole personal injury lawyer Peter Angelos' Christmas. The public health establishment just released two studies reporting no association between cell phone use and brain cancer.
The studies should squelch Angelos' hopes of a billion-dollar payday via a lawsuit against the cell phone industry.
A Journal of the American Medical Association study (Dec. 20) compared cell phone use among 469 subjects with brain cancer (cases) and 422 matched controls without brain cancer. Median monthly cell phone use was 2.5 hours among the cases and 2.2 hours among the controls.
Cell phone use wasn't statistically associated with brain cancer risk regardless of amount of cell phone use, location of brain tumor or type of brain tumor. The study was funded by the cell phone industry and the U.S. Public Health Service.
A New England Journal of Medicine study (to be published Jan. 11) compared cell phone use among 782 brain tumor cases and 799 controls. There was no evidence of increased risk of brain tumors among those who used cell phones for one or more hours per day or regularly for five years, or whose cumulative use exceeded 100 hours. The study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute.
"In all of the available scientific literature, there is nothing that indicates any adverse health effects from using cell phones," added Russell Owen, chief of the Food and Drug Administration's radiation biology branch.
To be sure, both studies are just statistical analyses. Neither study scientifically proves cell phone use isn't associated with increased cancer risk. But that can't be done anyhow. Proving something is absolutely safe under any and all conditions is akin to "proving a negative," a logical impossibility.
The studies also aren't the last word because they involved only relatively small populations studied for a limited period (1994-1998). The authors acknowledge that long-term studies are needed to account for the possibility of slower-growing tumors.
Nonetheless, these studies from the public health establishment deflate recent media hype about alleged cell phone dangers and super-lawyer Angelos' hopes of success in an $800 million lawsuit he just joined against cell phone makers.
Angelos should have known he'd hooked his wagon to a loser.
After the first cell phone scare in 1993, the industry selected Washington, D.C., consultant George Carlo to lead its $25 million research program. The program floundered under Carlo, producing little scientific value and exposing the industry to criticism that the program was a public relations stunt.
The industry stopped funding Carlo in 1999. He promptly switched from cell phone researcher to hysteric, touting the Journal of the American Medical Association study's then-preliminary results as identifying increased risk of a rare brain cancer.
The study's researchers criticized Carlo, saying, "It's premature for Carlo to have called preliminary findings as constituting a ‘gray area' that calls for more research." Even cell phone activists were appalled by Carlo.
Louis Slesin, the publisher of Microwave News, the leading newsletter spotlighting cell phone concerns, noted "Just as [the industry stops funding him], Carlo has started to say there might be something to cell phone worries after all. Pardon our cynicism, but we've wondered if the two might be connected."
Carlo shamelessly took his cancer risk allegations to the health scare-eager media, appearing on NBC's Today, ABC's Primetime and 20/20, CNN, CNBC and numerous local television news programs. Last February, Carlo teamed with Angelos, the flamboyant lawyer who extorted enough from the asbestos and tobacco industries to buy the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
About the lawsuit prospects, Angelos said, "We think there's a lot there." Angelos told Business Week he wouldn't get involved unless he was "90 percent sure" he could win.
Another Baltimore personal injury lawyer, Joanne Suder, filed an $800 million lawsuit last summer against Motorola and others alleging cell phone use caused Baltimore neurologist Christopher Newman's brain cancer.
Angelos agreed with Suder in early December to become co-counsel on the Newman case. A member of Angelos' firm told Microwave News, "We will file no less than 10 other cell phone suits. We've been researching this issue for over a year."
Imagine that. Angelos' research produced a conclusion no body of reputable scientists ever reached. Just in the last 18 months, for example, panels of independent experts convened by the Canadian and British governments concluded no evidence indicates cell phones cause health effects.
Angelos' real problem now is the public health establishment. He faces the very uphill battle of convincing a court that the Public Health Service, National Cancer Institute, FDA, Journal of the American Medical Association, New England Journal of Medicine and international expert panels are wrong and that he's right about the alleged health risks.
The Grinch hated Christmas because his heart was two sizes too small. Angelos must know by now that Carlo's "science" is several sizes too small. They won't be carving roast cell phone beast anytime soon.