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Opinion

Nobody’s going to freak out?

I expected when I went to bed that I'd wake up to bedlam in the news about a cancer scare from cellphones. Much to my surprise, it didn't happen.

To those who missed the event on Tuesday, the World Health Organization's cancer-research group classified cell phones as "possibly carcinogenic." The International Agency for Research on Cancer called for more studies on a possible link between radiation exposure from the phones and increased risk of gliomas, a type of brain tumors.

As Stacey Singer points out in The Palm Beach Post,  this is not the first scientific group to raise a caution flag. It doesn't merit the dismissal that it got from the industry, which said the IARC in the past had fingered totally innocuous products like pickled vegetables and coffee.

It can take many years for an apparent dose-response link to a disease to unfold, which is a reason to treat the alert with more respect. On the other hand, the epidemiologic studies that led the IARC to raise the threat level were the kind that depend on people to remember and accurately report how much time they spent on their cell phones. People's memories for that sort of thing aren't exactly reliable.

It would behoove the industry to help finance studies, while keeping public-health agencies in charge of the results. It wouldn't be a big deal to get more phone users to switch to earbuds or texting. Teens are already there.

So further study is warranted; hysteria is not. It appears that most news-media outlets got the tone just right.

--Carol Gentry, Editor, can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.