Spam Journalism #61

By Jim McVeagh 14/10/2009


Spam Journalism: The spurious use of sensational headlines to add spice to an otherwise pointless article.

Don’t you just love it when headlines say the exact opposite of the main body of the article?

Mobile phone cancer link charted

Studies on whether mobile phones can cause cancer, especially brain tumors, vary widely in quality and there may be some bias in those showing the least risk, researchers reported.

So far it is difficult to demonstrate any link, although the best studies do suggest some association between mobile phone use and cancer, the team led by Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung of South Korea’s National Cancer Center found.

You are thinking “Damn, my mobile phone addiction is going to kill me”, right? Relax. The study in question was an extensive meta-analysis on cell-phone studies. Yes, it does have some charts in it, but I wouldn’t describe anything as being “charted”, merely catalogued as good, bad and indifferent. The analysis found that most studies on cell phones are too poorly done, or too small, to tell us anything about a link between cancer and cell-phone use. The few that were reasonably powered and unbiased found a small increase in benign tumours (not “cancer” as the second paragraph above states). The authors kindly point out that even the best study (The Danish cohort study, which found no link at all) was not very robust as it did not measure actual cell-phone radiation exposure, but used telephone subscriptions as a proxy.

All in all, The analysis adds little to the debate on cell-phones and cancer except the ubiquitous “more studies are needed”. Truly a sensational headline atop a pointless article.