Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Link between radio use and brain tumours?

A news item in the December 2011 CQ magazine caught my attention yesterday. It reported that a Danish study of more than 350,000 people found no evidence of a link between cellphone use and cancer. Cancer rates have not increased during the time that cellphone use has become widespread. "That's good news" I thought.

However, some websites that reported the story carried the additional information that the Danish researchers found a hint of a link between heavy phone use and the rare but usually fatal glioma brain tumours - exactly the bugger I have. Not such good news after all, then.

Another study by Swedish researchers found an increase in cancer in areas of the brain exposed to microwave energy during a mobile phone call. Most of this data was from users of older analogue phones which run higher power and cause three times the exposure of newer digital systems. However that would still apply to use of VHF and UHF FM hand-helds which are typically operated at a power of 5 watts.

I think you would have to be an extremely active ham radio operator to expose yourself to as much RF as a heavy mobile phone user. But most hams are using much lower frequencies - though potentially higher power levels. Are the frequencies commonly used by hams more or less likely to cause cancer? I don't think anyone definitively knows the answer to that.

But it is certainly food for thought. I'd be more inclined now to use my HTs on low power or with a speaker mic so as to get the antenna further from the head. And if you must use indoor or stealth antennas that can only be sited a few feet from the operating position, life's too short for QRO!
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