“The risk that watching ABC News will cause your head to explode can’t be ruled out.”

Earlier today, the British Medical Journal published an update on a study of more than 350,000 people that investigated whether there’s a link between cellphones and cancer. The conclusion?

In this update of a large nationwide cohort study of mobile phone use, there were no increased risks of tumours of the central nervous system, providing little evidence for a causal association.

That’s how many news outlets played the story. The headline on Tara Parker-Pope’s blog post for New York Times, for instance, reads “No Cellphone-Cancer Link in Large Study.”

ABC News’s website took a slightly different approach. “A new study casts doubt on the possible link between cell phones and brain cancer,” its piece began, “but experts say the risk can’t be ruled out.”

That, my friends, is how you scare-monger. The “risk” of a cellphone-cancer link will never be “ruled out” — because it’s impossible to prove a negative.

Here’s ABC’s effort to justify their portentous lead (emphasis added): “One exception [to the many studies showing no correlation] is a 2010 study that found a slight, statistically insignificant increase in risk in a rare form of brain cancer called glioma among cell phone users.”


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