Dr Charlie Teo's response to ABC Catalyst's Wi-Fi program

As a neurosurgeon on the front lines of treating children with brain cancer, I am saddened that we are still not close to finding a cure, or even effective treatments. The most common form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), carries a dismal prognosis with only 2% of patients surviving more than 5 years. This disease kills more children in Australia than any other disease! In actuality, until we know what causes brain cancer we can’t even make appropriate recommendations for its prevention. However, inferring from the basic and clinical sciences and our best judgement from previous cancer associations, we can make educated recommendations. If formal recommendations to the public were released only AFTER many, many people have become terminally ill from cancer, we would be doing a DISSERVICE to the community.

There is evidence for and against the association between non-ionizing radiation and the genesis of brain cancer. I personally believe the jury is still out. Why then would I be so supportive of scientists such as Lennart Hardell and Devra Davis? It’s simple…..I don’t want egg on my face!

If a respected authority such as the World Health Organization listens to the likes of Hardell and Davis, resulting in the classification of mobile phones as “possibly carcinogenic”, then who am I to ignore this information. Those who believe there is no “link” accuse Davis of being an alarmist. On the contrary, scientists such as Hardell and Davis are simply showing social responsibility by alerting the public of this possible cancer forming agent. If, in 20 years, we find that mobile phone usage definitively causes cancer, the public would (rightfully) be outraged for not alerting them to the possible harmful effects of such a ubiquitous. Then the argument will be about how we did not do our duty in alerting the public sooner. As an example, when a shark is sighted near the shore, we alert the public of the possible danger even if we don’t know if the shark will attack. In this scenario, all we know is that certain types of sharks have been known to inadvertently injure people in the ocean when mistaken for prey, and to proceed with caution if they decide to swim. The best we can do is release this type of information to the public and let them decide. If, however, we show that there is NO link then what have we lost? The answer is reduced exposure to EMR, more responsible usage of wi-fi, and less reliance on artificial communication tools. Are these such terrible consequences?

Rather than the Catalyst program igniting a fight between 2 camps of devoted, passionate scientists it should unite all of us to collaborate in order to find answers to this devastating, indiscriminate and universally deadly disease. I hope that it will.

Charlie Teo AM

Conjoint Professor, University of NSW

Consulting Professor, Duke University Medical Center

Yeoh Ghim Seng Visiting Professor, National Univ. of Singapore

Director; Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery

Founder; Cure Brain Cancer Foundation

POW Private Hospital

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