Myth vs Fact on the The National Toxicology Program Cell Phone Cancer Study

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23 Myths About the National Toxicology Program Cell Phone Radiation Cancer Study
Correcting the Misinformation

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) study found an association between cell phone radiation and cancer prompting an astonishing chorus of criticism from almost every prominent media outlet in the country.

Environmental Health Trust analyzed the media response and found a pattern of consistent inaccurate and misleading statements repeated over and over again in literally hundreds of news articles. Most of the criticisms levied at the NTP findings are inaccurate and simply do not hold up to scientific scrutiny.

We have counted a total of 23 myths. Sometimes they are quotes and sometimes they are the journalists statements. Either way, the more such false facts are put forth without scientific response, the more DOUBT is perpetuated. These myths inaccurately portray the NTP study and allow the important results to be downplayed.

Please take the time to inform yourself of the FACTS about the study.

23 Myths About the National Toxicology Program Cell Phone Radiation Study

Click on the Myth below

Overarching Myth #1:
The NTP study is just one rat study that is irrelevant to humans because the radiation exposures were far higher than humans get from cell phones.

Fact:
This is the world’s largest, most carefully done study on wireless radiation specifically designed to mimic human exposures in rodents. Every agent that is known to cause cancer in humans has been shown to be carcinogenic in animals when adequately tested.

Cell Phone Cancer Study“The researchers treated the rats to very heavy amounts of radiation — nine hours a day, seven days a week — which is far more than most people spend holding their cellphones to their heads. (Many people nowadays rarely hold their cellphones up to their heads at all.)”

Brad Plumer in ‘Seriously, stop with the irresponsible reporting on cellphones and cancer’, The VOX, May 27, 2016 

“Cellphones probably cause cancer if the exposure is close enough, long enough, and in sufficient magnitude. We don’t yet know the risk for a given level of exposure in humans. We need more data in this area, not only for cellphones, but for bluetooth devices, wifi and all the other RF-EMF devices out there. Until then, reduce your exposure whenever possible.”

–Christopher J. Portier and Wendy L. Leonard, Scientific American, June 13, 2016

Myth: The NTP rats radiation exposure was way too high to be relevant to human health.

Fact: The NTP study was designed to mimic long term human exposure to cell phone radiation and to test the adequacy of safety limits.

  • The NTP study had three radio frequency radiation exposure levels which were 1.5 W/kg, 3 W/kg, and 6.0 W/kg. These radiation exposures are the same and only slightly higher than a person gets while using a cell phone to the head. For comparison the US FCC exposure limit for cell phones is 1.6 W/kg (about the same as the first exposure group) and the FCC limit for extremities such as the arms, legs and ears- the limit is 4.0 W/kg (more than the second exposure group).  The 6.0 W/kg was a level that is not even twice what we allow to our arms and legs.
  • This study was designed to test if government safety limits (which only protect us from thermal radiation levels) are protective of human health and the NTP findings indicate these limits are not protective.
  • The exposures of the brain in the NTP study were not very different from human exposures associated with use of cell phones.
  • It is standard practice for rodent studies to have experimental groups with higher exposure levels than average human exposure in carcinogenicity studies.
  • Many teens sleep with their cell phones and people most commonly hold phones against their ears and body, while cell phone manufacturers and carriers have resisted efforts to warn people not to do so.
Click here for a full explanation

Cell Phone Cancer Study“Let’s begin with the fact that this is a rat study and that we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that what happens with rats and cancer is what happens in humans.”

–Aaron Carroll in “Why It’s Not Time to Panic About Cell Phones and Cancer”, The New York Times, May 31, 2016

Myth: Rat research does not inform human health risk.

Fact: Rat research does inform human health risk.

  • Rats are the preferred animal model for carcinogenicity studies.
  • Regulatory agencies currently rely on rodent carcinogenicity bioassay data to predict whether or not a given chemical poses a carcinogenic threat to humans.

What happened in the NTP rats is, in fact, happening in humans as documented by scientific research.

Click here for a full explanation

logo_ars_technicaThe study, which was not properly peer reviewed—despite what some outlets have reported—is chock full of red flags: small sample sizes,…”

—Beth Mole in Study that found cell phones cause cancer in rats is riddled with red flags, ARS TECHNICA, May 31, 2016

Myth: The NTP study is just a small “single rat study.”

Fact: The $25 Million NTP study is the world’s largest most carefully done study ever done on long term wireless health risks.

  • They used double the usual number of animals required for this type of study.
  • The NTP convened not one but three panels to look at the abnormal tissues and determine if they were cancerous.
  • The NTP solicited unprecedented review from multiple scientists from outside the NTP to critically review all aspects of the data analysis and study findings.
Click here for a full explanation

consumer-health-day“I suspect that this experiment is substantially underpowered and that the few positive results found reflect false positive findings” wrote outside reviewer Dr. Michael Lauer, deputy director of NIH’s office of extramural research.

—Healthday News in NIH Experts Cast Doubt on Rat Study Linking Cellphones, Tumors May 27, 2016

Myth: The NTP study was underpowered and statistically unable to detect a true effect.

Fact: A underpowered study is more likely to result in a false negative and the NTP researchers thoroughly address this issue in their analysis.

Click here for a full explanation

Overarching Myth 2: The weak and unusual study results prove the risk to humans is small and likely nonexistent.

Fact: When scientifically reviewed and statistically analyzed, the findings of statistically significant increased cancers and precancers in the exposed rats remain valid despite the gender and survival differences. Furthermore, the analysis is strengthened by the findings of other adverse effects from exposure such as lower birth rate and cardiac abnormalities.

new-york-times-logo“Oddly enough, the incidence of tumors in females was minimal, barely different from the control group. It is not clear why the results would vary between the sexes, which is one reason some experts are questioning the findings.”

—Andrew Pollack in ‘Questions and Answers on the New Study Linking Cellphones and Cancer in Rats’, International New York Times, May 27, 2016

Myth: Cancer rates were only increased in the male rats but were not equally increased in females so the findings are questionable.

Fact: It is extremely common for males to show different cancer rates from females in both (NTP) laboratory studies and in epidemiological studies. Specifically, in previous NTP toxicology studies,  male rats as compared to females had more than ten times the incidence of malignant gliomas (brain tumors) and more than twice the rate of malignant schwannoma of the heart.

  • These rare tumors were observed only in RFR-exposed animals of both sexes while no tumors were observed in the control animals.
  • Female RFR-exposed animals did have higher rates than controls even if the possibility that this was not a chance occurrence could not be excluded with the desired probability.
  • The fact that we saw any of these tumors in the exposed females but none in the concurrent controls adds support to the conclusion that cell phone radiation leads to cancer among rats.
Click here for a full explanation

nymag“…the rats in the cell-phone-radiation group got these cancers at the rates they were supposed to. …It sounds as though if the control group had developed these cancers at the normal levels, there wouldn’t have been much to report here at all.”

—Jesse Singal in ‘For the Love of God, Please Chill Out About That New Study About Rats and Cell Phones and Cancer’, New York Magazine, May 27, 2016

Myth: If the control group had developed cancer at the usual rate (historical controls), there would be no statistically significant difference.

Fact: The concurrent controls in any given given experiment are always the best controls and the most important to consider as every detail of feed, housing and environment are truly identical.

  • NTP scientists carefully considered the issue of historical controls and factored it into their analysis.
  • An analysis comparing all controls—historic and present—with all exposed animals in the present study still shows a consistently increased probability of developing cancer.
Click here for a full explanation

new-yahoo-logo“It shows us that there is a link between cellphone radiation and cancer, which is important. But it also implies that there’s a safe level of cellphone radiation, which is somewhere below having a cell phone glued to your ear for nine hours a day, seven days a week.”

Chris Mills in ‘Your cellphone is not giving you cancer’, Yahoo News, May 27, 2016

Myth: Since only the rats exposed to super high radiation levels had increased cancer, it must be perfectly safe to use our cell phones which emit a “safe” level of radiation.

Fact: No safe level has been scientifically documented as this study was not designed to determine a safe level.

  • Testing for the absence of an effect requires a completely different study design and uses different methods of statistical analysis than were employed in the NTP study.
  • Adequate research to determine a safe level of radiofrequency has not been performed by the US Government as of yet.
  • This study confirms that safety is not assured at levels the US government previously assumed were safe.
  • This study lends support to research findings that adverse biological effects from wireless radiation are found at radiation levels thousands of times lower than government safety limits.
Click here for a full explanation

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“The tumors selected (gliomas, hyperplasias, and schwannomas) occur in later life and control rats did not live long enough to develop them. In fact, none of the control rats developed even one of these tumors!”

—John D. Boice, Jr., Health Physics News, The Buster Report #49 

Myth: The lower survival rate of the control group skewed the results because the control group did not live long enough to develop tumors.  

Fact: NTP scientists carefully considered this question and there was no statistical difference in survival between control male rats and the exposed group of male rats with the highest incidence of gliomas and heart schwannomas. Therefore, survival was sufficient to detect tumors or precancerous lesions in control male rats.

Click here for a full explanation

nbc-news-logo

“There was little effect on the newborn rats, except the pups appeared to be very slightly lighter when the mothers were exposed to the signals.”

—Maggie Fox, “A Possible Cellphone Link to Cancer? A Rat Study Launches New Debate”, NBC News, 27 May 2016

Myth: The other effects found in the exposed rats such as decreased birthweight are trivial and irrelevant.

Fact: The findings of a lower birth weight are an important indication of the adverse developmental impacts from prenatal exposure.

Click here for a full explanation

“Given the extremely large number of people who use wireless communication devices, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to the RFR generated by those devices could have broad implications for public health.” —National Toxicology Program Report – Christopher J. Portier and Wendy L. Leonard, Scientific American, June 13, 2016

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“The results are fairly weak and confounding ” and  “Readers should be aware how weak the results really are.”

—Kenneth Foster in “Cellphone Radiation Linked to Cancer in Major Rat Study”, IEEE Spectrum, 27 May 2016 & in Foster’s comments below the IEEE article.

Myth: The results are weak and confounding.

Fact: A doubling or tripling of risk would never be considered “weak” considering the widespread use of cell phones by humans worldwide. Even a small risk could eventually result in a considerable number of these lethal tumours in the population.

  • The results are strong, especially for the heart schwannomas.
  • Yes, it is true that a “low incidence” of tumors were found, but since these are rare tumors, the findings are quite significant.
  • DNA damage was induced with both modulations of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in brains of both rats and mice.
  • Overall, one in 18 male rats exposed to cell phone radiation developed cancer and one in 12 male rats exposed to cell phone radiation developed cancer or precancerous cells.
Click here for a full explanation

reg_logo

“There’s another oddity that’s received less attention: the alleged cancer link is modulation-dependent. It seems wildly improbable to The Register that the difference between CDMA and GSM modulation somehow triggers a different response in rat DNA.”

Richard Chirgwin in “Rats revive phones-and-cancer scares: Study good for a headline, not much else”, The Register UK , May 30, 2016 

Myth: The fact that CDMA rats had more of a response then  the GSM exposed rats makes no sense and shows the study is flawed.

Fact: These findings are should not detract from the study findings.

  • It is scientifically understood that different modulations could have different biological impacts.
  • Such findings are consistent with recent analysis of epidemiologic studies  in humans which indicate that the more recent technologies  could have  a more dramatic biological effect, despite the lower power of the newer technology.
  • The health effects of various modulations is an important research area as indicated by prior research.
Click here for a full explanation

Overarching Myth #3: Because we don’t fully understand the biology behind these results we can ignore them.

Fact: The NTP study confirms the existence of a non-thermal effect.   For almost every well established carcinogen ever identified, from cigarettes to asbestos, the evidence of risk preceded our understanding of the mechanism by many years, if not decades.

science

“There’s another oddity that’s received less attention: the alleged cancer link is modulation-dependent. It seems wildly improbable to The Register that the difference between CDMA and GSM modulation somehow triggers a different response in rat DNA.”

Richard Chirgwin in “Rats revive phones-and-cancer scares: Study good for a headline, not much else”, The Register UK , May 30, 2016 

Myth: There is no well understood mechanism by which cell phone radiation induces cancer so – regardless of the findings – there must be a lack of risk. The fact that CDMA rats had more of a response then the GSM exposed rats makes no sense and shows the study is flawed.

Fact: The study indicates that a non-thermal mechanism clearly exists. The NTP provides strong evidence of a risk. Not fully understanding the mechanism  is not a basis to reject or to be suspicious of careful data observation and recording.

  • It could take decades – as it did with asbestos and smoking- before the mechanism is considered “proven”.
  • Several prominent scientists have published research highlighting sufficient evidence that radiofrequency radiation could result in biochemical changes that alter how our cells functions and increase the oxidative stress (increasing free radicals) in our bodies leading to chronic inflammation and cancer.
Click here for a full explanation

Overarching Myth 4: Existing research invalidates the NTP findings of increased cancer and genotoxicity.

Scientific Fact: The NTP study substantiates previous research findings from human and animal research indicating increased cancer risk and DNA impacts.

cnn-svg

“Previous research in rodents has found that exposing animals to cell phone radiation across their entire bodies for only an hour a day or six hours a day for a shorter number of days did not lead to increases in the rates of lymphomas and brain tumors, respectively.”

—Carina Storrs in “Cell phone radiation increases cancers in rats, but should we worry?”, CNN, May 27, 2016

Myth: Previous animal research has not shown a link between cell phone radiation and cancer.

Fact: Previous animal research has shown a link between cell phone radiation and cancer.

  • In fact, previous animal research has been replicated that indicates a carcinogenic effect, specifically cancer promotion.
  • A  U.S. Air Force study conducted in the early 1980’s found increased cancers in rats and previous studies have also shown DNA breaks.
  • The two small-scale studies cited in the CNN article are incomparable to the NTP study.
Click here for a full explanation

buzzfeed-750

“Despite the slew of headlines the study spurred, cancer researchers say one rat study doesn’t erase a patchy history of claims of a link between electric fields and cancer. Plus, there just isn’t any human data, and no increase in brain or heart tumors in people that should show up with hundreds of millions of them using cells phone, if there really was a link.”

—Dan Vergano in “No, Your Cell Phone Probably Isn’t Giving You Cancer”, Buzzfeed, May 27, 2016

Myth: There is no human evidence linking brain and heart tumors to cell phones.

Fact: There is human evidence linking brain and heart tumors to cell phones.

  • Research on humans shows the same type of tumor increases -as seen in the rats- from long term RF-EMF radiation exposures.
  • The Swedish studies and the Interphone study not only found elevated glioblastomas, but also higher acoustic neuromas-  schwann cell tumors- at the highest level of cumulative call time.
  • These human studies provided the basis for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying radiofrequency radiation as a Class 2B “possible” carcinogen in 2011.
  • NIEHS/NTP states, “Tumor types observed in this study are similar type to those observed in some epidemiology studies of cell phone users” and the study “Supports IARC conclusions of potential carcinogenic potential of RFR.”
Click here for a full explanation

the-new-york-times-logo-featured“Many studies have been conducted, including some very large ones like the Million Women Study in Britain, and a Danish study of more than 350,000 cellphone users. There also were studies examining the effects of these radio waves in animals and cells growing in petri dishes. The results are reassuring. There is no convincing evidence of any link between cellphone use and cancer or any other disease.”

—Andrew Pollack in “Questions and Answers on the New Study Linking Cellphones and Cancer in Rats”, New York Times, May 27, 2016 

Myth: Large studies such as the Million Women study and Danish study and petri dish studies reassure us there is no problem because they show no evidence.

Fact: The Danish Cohort and Million Women study are two epidemiological cohort studies that are of poor quality in regards to understanding the effects of cell phone radiation and it is not possible to draw any scientifically reliable conclusions from either of them.

  • The Danish Cohort Study, originally funded by Danish Telecom, excluded corporate subscribers (the heavy cell phone users), has been heavily criticized by scientists including the International Agency for the Research on Cancer scientists.
  • The Million Women Study was not primarily designed to test the effect of cell phone radiation has been criticised for a short observation period, bias and crude exposure assessment.
  • The four year REFLEX studies, involving 12 groups from 7 European countries, studied the effects of radiation on animal and human cells in Petri dishes and  found GMS-modulated mobile phone radiation caused DNA strand breaks.
Click here for a full explanation

the-new-york-times-logo-featuredIf they [cell phones] caused brain cancer in even a small percentage of users, we’d see an increase in its incidence. Since the late 1980s, however, the incidence of brain cancer in the United States has been decreasing.”

—Aaron Carroll “Why It’s Not Time to Panic About Cell Phones and Cancer”, New York Times, May 31, 2016

Myth: The lack of an epidemic of brain cancer demonstrates that cell phones pose no risk of brain cancer.

Fact:

  • It will take decades to see an epidemic of brain cancer in the general population because brain tumors have a very long latency period.
  • The most aggressive types of brain cancers and those tumor types specifically associated with cell phone use (the types which NTP rats developed) are rising. These increases are only evident when you break down the statistics into specific tumor type rather than look at brain cancer rates overall.

Case control research is a more valid study design than population trends at this time and these types of studies do show an association between cancer and cell phone use.

Click here for a full explanation

fortune-logo-2016-840x485“That said, other studies have suggested cellphone radiation is safe. For example, a study in Australia, the results of which were released last month, showed no increase in brain cancer in the country that could be tied to the widespread rise in cellphone use.”

David Meyer in “U.S. Government Study Links Cellphone Radiation With Cancer (In Rats)” Fortune, May 27, 2016

Myth: A recent Australian study showed there is no rise in brain cancer so this NTP study must be bogus.

Fact: This study is not proof of safety for multiple reasons.

  • This widely publicized article claiming that cell phones are safe by the Australian sociologist Simon Chapman has been critiqued by a series of published articles (Bandara 2016, Morgan 2016, Wojcik 2016) criticizing the analysis and study design.
Click here for a full explanation

Overarching Myth 5: Experts overwhelmingly have discredited the study results and conclude it to be irrelevant.

Fact: The majority of NIH scientific reviewers to the NTP dataset believe the findings are valid and that the radiation exposure is related to the cancer.

losangelestimes“Several of them [NIH researchers] found significant shortcomings that they said called into question the strength of any link between radiation exposure and tumor growth.

“I am unable to accept the author’s’ conclusions,” wrote Dr. Michael S. Lauer of the National Institutes of Health, a reviewer who conducted his own analysis of the data.”

—Karen Kaplan, “Health experts question federal study linking cell phones to brain tumors, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2016

Myth: NIH’s own reviewers could not accept the study conclusions.

Fact:

  • The majority of NIH scientific reviewers to the NTP dataset believe the findings are valid and that the radiation exposure is related to the cancer.
  • Dr. Lauer’s comments are incorrectly presented in news reports as representing the general tone of scientific reception to the study.
  • Dr. Michael Lauer’s criticisms were responded to with scientific Fact by NTP researchers and this is documented in the report as part of the review process.
  • Despite these facts, Dr. Michael Lauer’s comments have repeatedly and incorrectly been presented as evidence of a flawed study.
Click here for a full explanation

fortune-logo-2016-840x485

“Dr. Aaron Carroll, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, did a close reading of the study, (via Vox) and saw some things that should trigger skepticism.”

David Z. Morris in “That Cell-Phone Cancer Study isn’t Quite As Scary as it Seems”, Fortune, May 29, 2016

Myth: The New York Times review of the NTP study proves the study is bad.

Fact: Dr. Carroll’s NYT column contained 8 serious false and misleading statements that have not been corrected. Yet now the non peer reviewed NYT article is referred to as evidence of NTP’s limitations.

Click here for a full explanation

linkedin_logo-svg“Fortunately the (NTP) report was quickly discredited by scientists due to the poor quality of the results – which failed to meet basic principles of toxicology and doubt about the relevance to human exposure especially in light of overwhelming epidemiology data which contradicts these findings.”

—Michael Dellarco in “Fallout from the NTP Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Study”, Linkedin, June 6, 2016

Myth: The NTP study has been fully discredited by scientists and experts due to major flaws.  

Fact: The majority of expert scientific responses to the NTP study respect the findings and the majority of NIH data reviewers agree with the conclusions of the report.

  • The National Toxicology Program (NTP) of The National Institutes of Health animal toxicology research is considered the “gold standard”.
  • A generalization that the NTP study is “discredited by scientists” is  false and misleading.
Click here for a full explanation

Overarching Myth 5: This study still needs to be replicated before it will have an impact on federal regulations or health recommendations to the public.

Fact: This $25 Million dollar study one of the most elaborate studies of any potentially hazardous exposure ever conducted. The concordance between the NTP study and human epidemiological studies is stunning and should guide federal agencies to issue protective policy and strong recommendations to reduce exposure.

“It’s way too soon to take these findings as a reason to toss your phone out the window. We’ve explained before that single studies are basically useless on their own (here’s why) and that’s still the case. This research will almost certainly inspire new projects that try to replicate the troubling results, and that’s great. But when publications blast every contrarian new finding as a groundbreaking absolute truth, it makes the public less able to develop informed opinions.”

Rachel Feltman in “Do cellphones cause cancer? Don’t believe the hype”, Washington Post, May 27, 2016 

“But the weight of evidence is not in agreement with this small signal that has been found in rats. Until similar results are replicated in people, there isn’t a great deal to worry about.”

—Michael Reilly in “A Connection between Cell Phones and Cancer Has Been Found. Should We Be Worried?”, MIT Technology Review, May 27, 2016

Myth: This study needs to be replicated first- until then, it will not have an impact.

Fact: This $25 Million dollar study one of the most elaborate and expensive studies of any potentially hazardous exposure ever conducted.

  • It will likely not be repeated as the exposure equipment has been dismantled.
  • The concordance between the NTP study and human epidemiological studies is stunning.
  • In addition, NTP also reported statistically significant evidence of DNA damage in mice as well as in rats.
Click here for a full explanation

“Given the lack of evidence for an increased incidence of brain tumors in the population in recent decades, I do not expect health agencies to react very strongly to these findings.”

—Kenneth Foster in “U.S. Cellphone Study Fans Cancer Worries”, Wall Street Journal, May 28 2016

Myth: The NTP study is not groundbreaking and will have little impact on federal health agency recommendations.

Fact: The NTP report marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk.

  • The NTP report will have  an impact on federal health and safety agency recommendations because it shows that federal radiation exposure limits are based on a flawed assumption.

The NTP findings indicate our federal exposure limits are not protective of human health. If cell phone radiation were safe then we should have seen no effect from these exposures. The NTP tested the hypothesis that low level cell phone radiation -at non thermal levels-  could not cause health effects. Yet a health effect was shown.This is groundbreaking because US government exposure limits are based on the now disproved hypothesis that non-thermal effects are benign. The study results clearly show that cell phone radiation can cause adverse health effects at nonthermal levels. In order to adequately protect the public, federal agencies should now reassess federal exposure limits to protect the public from non thermal effects.

“The NTP report linking radiofrequency radiation (RFR) to two types of cancer marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk” and “This new evidence will undoubtedly factor into ongoing assessments by regulators to determine the potential cancer risk posed by cell phones. The American Cancer Society eagerly awaits guidance from government agencies, like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about the safety of cell phone use.”

The American Cancer Institute Press Release

“Despite what some outlets reported, this was a not-yet-published study of rats that had been shopped for “review,” but had not been accepted by any editors.”

—Aaron Carroll “Why It’s Not Time to Panic About Cell Phones and Cancer”, New York Times, May 31, 2016

Myth: The NTP study was not peer reviewed and was rejected by medical journals.

Fact: The NTP Report was extensively peer reviewed by experts before the findings were released.

  • The peer reviews resulted in revisions to the NTP report which incorporated and addressed reviewer comments.
  • The NTP study will generate  numerous published papers and these prepared manuscripts are listed in the NTP Technical Report.
Click here for a full explanation

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