Smartphones and cancer

It’s July 2017 and we are celebrating the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. In that decade, the new category that Apple has more or less created, now commonly known as smartphones, has conquered the globe. Today, the smartphone is one of the most ubiquitous devices in all developed, and in an increasing number of developing countries.

One of the reasons why the number of smartphones has been rising so quickly is the fact that the decade or so before was marked by the rapid spread of the smartphone’s predecessor: the cell phone. Most of you will remember them: small grey devices that had the word Nokia on them, allowing you to make phone calls, send text messages and play Snake. The only downside: you had to charge the battery every week – of even twice a week if you got a bit carried away by Snake. (I’m pretty sure that the 3310 will show up in plenty of museums in centuries to come.)

So, all in all mobile phones have been around while being used on a massive scale for at least 20 years now – which starts giving us clear indications of the consequences of the long term use of mobile phones. And ever since they have been around, there have also been claims that the use of mobile phones, and more specifically the radiation caused by them could be causing cancer.

Loads of research was done, without any clear evidence to support the thesis ‘use of mobile phones causes cancer’ resulting from any of that research. But still the argumentation keeps cropping up: ‘OK, but what about the long term effects?’ Claiming that more research is needed is something you can keep doing ad infinitum. The underlying problem is that it is simply impossible to prove that something is NOT there, or that something did NOT happen. Let me give you an example: a man gets accused of cheating on his wife. If this would have been true, there could be irrefutable evidence to prove it (pictures, WhatsApp messages, etc), but what kind of evidence can he ever provide to prove irrefutably that it did not happen? There simply is no such thing as evidence of a non-existing event – or a non-existing cause.

I firmly believe, based on the research done so far, that the use of mobile phones is not causing cancer, but I won’t go into any of the details here and now. My only point, especially for those who believe it does cause cancer and those who claim that more research is needed to know the long term consequences: the long term is now; mobile phones have now already been used on a huge scale for a considerable amount of time, and so far there has not been any spectacular rise in the incidence of cancer (at least if you leave out of consideration the possibility that there is a global cover up operation hiding those reports from the public at large – conspiracy theory: another perfect all purpose argument). So, if you still believe that the use of mobile phones is causing cancer: at least have the decency to admit that if there is a cancer causing effect, it is an extremely moderate one.

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