Now, I'm neither a researcher or statistician, and personally think the jury is still out on this one. I'm not going to take sides.
But here is what I am pissed off about: Notice that the story said "may possibly" cause cancer. But the way we think, it somehow becomes "does cause cancer", and so we panic, and hold our cell phones a yard from our head, and scream into them (that's gonna make driving while talking into one a helluva a lot safer, huh?).
"I can't hear you, Dave, but at least I may possibly not get cancer."
In my opinion a lot of the way this stuff gets played up as the top story on news outlets is just bullshit. It's no different than if I put "SEXXX" in screaming letters at the top of this post. It sure as hell would get your attention, and snag a few search engines, but the post has little, if anything, to do with sex (unless you're into setting the phone on vibrate and...)
This is the nightmare of medical research in the lay press. Let's say Dr. Hodgkin does some research on rat ovarian cells. He finds that in 25% of rats with ovarian cancer, there is a gene that may be able to stop cancer spread.
So he gets published in the journal Genetics Research and Lab Decor. A hungry reporter finds the article, and sees a great way to sell papers with a story on how ovarian cancer has been cured!
Now this isn't what Dr. Hodgkin said. His research had a 25% success rate in curing mice with a certain type of ovarian cancer. The most he might say is that someday this might lead to new methods of treating some types human ovarian cancer.
But, of course, nobody gives a shit about mice with cancer. A headline saying "25% Of Mice with Ovarian Cancer May Someday be Cured!" wouldn't get anyone's attention. But if you make a huge leap of illogic, extrapolate it to humans, and put up "CURE FOR OVARIAN CANCER NEAR!", it will sell newspapers and draw readers, no matter how far off from the truth it is.
For those of you who remember, in the mid-80's there was a HUGE media circus about how Interleukin-2 was THE cure for cancer (an absurdity, if you think about it, considering that cancer isn't even a single disease- it's hundreds). Major news magazines and TV networks ran stories about it. It made the front page... and that was about it. Not to take anything away from Interleukin-2. It eventually did settle down and find a place in malignancy treatment. But was it the miracle breakthrough that it got played up as? Not even close.
Certainly there are plenty of things that are clearly proven to cause cancer: cigarettes, for example. But hell, at this point we all know that. So it's not going to get attention. But put up a headline about something we believe is harmless (unless you're trying to pass a cell phone talker on the freeway) and it will get a lot of readers.
So let's get back to the cell phones.
What really grates my crank is the use of "may possibly" or "possibly" or "may be linked to..." that the articles about this are so full of. NOT "does" or "doesn't" but simply different variations on ambiguity which, while getting your attention, DON'T REALLY SAY A FUCKING THING!!!
Look at it this way. "Cell phone use may possibly cause cancer". How is that different from "cell phone use may or may not cause cancer"? But if the second sentence was used, you'd say "No shit, Sherlock" and skip the article.
To take it a step further, let's use the "may possibly" phrase in other circumstances, and see how definitive that sounds:
"Mrs. Smith, you may possibly be pregnant."
"Dave, you may possibly be fired."
"You're going to see Dr. Grumpy? I heard he may possibly be competent."
"The Grumpyville Faceplants may possibly win the Super Bowl."
"Congrats, Cindy. You may possibly be getting a promotion."
"Dude! There may possibly be beer and girls at the party!"
"OMG Buffy! Your new boyfriend may possibly be HAWT!"
"KIDS! You may possibly be punished if you don't clean up your damn rooms!"
Doesn't give you a lot of confidence, or clarity, does it?
So next time you see a medical research news story, think about how accurate it may possibly be.