TODAY   |  April 24, 2014

Cellphones and cancer: Hot-button medical issues

Dr. Roshini Raj and Dr. Tasneem Bhatia join TODAY to talk about various medical controversies and share their views on them.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> a lot of misconceptions and pretty wide theories out there when it comes to health. what are the facts?

>> here to break it down for us, an assistant professor of medicine and a founder and medical director of the atlanta center for holistic and integrative medicine . good morning to you both.

>> good morning.

>> first, before we get to the theories, where do they all come from and how do they take on a life of their own?

>> i think a couple reasons. number one, in the age of social media and the internet it is so easy to disseminate any theory you may have and you'll find some people that will promote it and spread the word. also, there has been a real erosion in the doctor-patient relationship and the trust there. unfortunately these days doctors don't have as much time to talk to their patients and answer their questions so people are seeking answers elsewhere.

>> i would add to that for a second. patients are super frustrated and really think they don't have options.

>> right.

>> and that lack of options sends them to the internet, sends them on discussion blogs to find answers on their own.

>> let's dig into some of these. let's start with this one that's been out there for a long time since ever got a cell phone basically and it says cell phones can lead to cancer.

>> right. we hear this a lot. there have been some studies looking at this issue and basically they have not shown a health risk yet. i say yet because cell phones are relatively new. when we were in college we didn't really have these and people are using them more than ever. so what i take away is no we don't have evidence right now that it's dangerous, which is a good thing, but for children especially whose brains are rapidly developing, they have rapid cell turnover, they're much more susceptible to radiation damage. i certainly recommend for children but even for adults limit your use. be prudent about it. try not to keep it near your head often. if it is starting to get warm you know that is a sign you're using it too much.

>> and there are studies under way currently involving children as well so perhaps we'll know more as the years go on. we should say the ctia, wireless association provided this statement saying the peer reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices within the limits established by the fcc do not pose a public health risk or cause any adverse health effects . anything else you think we should be thinking of especially when children are involved?

>> i think the bottom line , cell phones and the radio energy or radio frequency waves, we really don't know the long-term consequences just like the effect of electronics on a child's developing brain. so i think the safest bet is to keep those away from children. minimize their use. and really just those should be used for emergencies. even as adults we shouldn't be on them quite as much as we are. we are using them much more than ever before. that is also concerning.

>> let's move on. the next theory, that the fda is actually working with the pharmaceutical industry , pushing more prescription medication . true or false?

>> well, i think that, i don't think it's true, but it is true that it is very expensive to get a drug passed by the fda . it requires a lot of extremely expensive clinical research , which the natural medicine world really doesn't have those kinds of resources. yes, we definitely see more prescription drugs getting through the fda than natural remedies . we have to remember the fda is one of those thankless jobs. okay if they don't pass enough medications for us, we say they're dragging their feet or not doing what they -- if they do push things through, then we have safety concerns, we blame them for not keeping us safe. ultimately their first priority is to keep us safe and when it comes to a lot of the natural remedies we don't have the large scale research we need to prove they're safe and effective.

>> and to speak from my perspective as an integrate if doctor and seeing over 5,000 patients, i know my patients are frustrated. they want the information and to know what their options and they don't want the side effects profile and want things that will work with the body rather than against the body. do we blame the fda ? i'm not so sure. we really want the research there so we can justify using some of these remedies i know work because i've seen them work over and over . the fda issued a statement using the best possible sigh nesn evaluating new drugs for approval before they can be sold not only prevents products with potentially fraudulent or unproven claims from reaching the american public but provides doctors and patients the information they need to use medicine wisely. our next one is very controversial. we hear a lot about it in the media. that is vaccines cause autism . there is a definitive study a few years ago that said this is not the case.

>> right.

>> yet that theory is still out there and pretty pervasive.

>> this is probably the most troubling for me because the fact that people believe in this theory, they don't vaccinate their kids, and we are seeing a resurgence of diseases like measles, mumn pleaps, whooping cough, which can be deadly. so it is very clear research has disproven this theory but i understand why it has come about. we are seeing a real increase in the diagnosis of autism . the thing is when autism is diagnosed around 18 or 24 months is when kids are getting those vaccines. this is more of a coincidence if there's been no proof autism is caused by vaccines. there are probably some environmental factors . unfortunately we don't know what those are yet. but there is also a genetic component.

>> i have to weigh in on this one. again, seeing my patients over and over again autism is core. when you talk to people in the country it is an inflammatory bowel disease , a gut disease. what is happening is there a tipping point for each patient. that story is very unique. some of it is genetic. some of it is food. some is other factors we don't really know. vaccines may play a role for those kids. that's the part that is very confusing for all of us as physicians and parents and everyone to really decide what the right thing is to do.

>> to be clear, it hasn't been proven that it's an inflammatory bowel disease . that is a theory. i think we all want to see more research on what is causing autism . however, right now there is no proof that vaccines are playing a role.

>> we should read the statement of the american academy of pediatrics on this. they say additional research is supported to investigate genetic and environmental factors that may affect the developing brain. while it is likely there are many environmental factors that influence the development of autism vaccines are not the cause of autism . this has been proven through many careful and repeated studies.

>> the bottom line both of you doctors advise parents to get the full range of standard vaccines.

>> i do.

>> and talk to your pediatrician.

>> i think you need to have a conversation with your pediatrician about your child and your child's risk farktors and overall health.

>> thank you so much.

>> thank you.