SMS, MMS, Mobile Web Marketing: Prevent Cancer, Perhaps

There’s another reason why marketers should consider alternatives to voice when trying to reach mobile phone consumers: Brain tumors.

Late last week a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee held hearings on the possible connection between cellular phone usage and cancer. The topic itself isn’t new–there was concern about this health risk way back in the early 1990s. But two experts–the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany–testified anew that cellular safety remains questionable.

They pointed to a study from Oreboro University in Sweden, which showed that cellular users had twice the chance of getting malignant tumors on the brain or the hearing nerve, and indicated that humans younger than 20 were five times more likely to get brain cancer.

To be sure, both doctors admitted they couldn’t say cell phones were “definitely dangerous.” Handset makers and CTIA issued statements saying that phones are made according to current safety standards. Even the American Cancer Society says there’s “no consistent association” between mobiles and brain cancer.

Yet I agree with the doctors and others that people should take precautions while further studies are done. And in particular, I agree with their suggestion that consumers limit phone usage that necessitates putting the handset to their heads.

Remember those goofy cell phones that were created in the early 1990s in response to cancer concerns? The ones that had the device angled out oddly, like an umbrella on its side, or an arm with a pin in it that keeps it permanently bent? Well, no one’s advocating those!

Instead, the doctors suggested that talkers use a headset or the speakerphone function on a handset. Anything to prevent direct contact between the phone and the head and ears.

Thus, text-messaging (SMS and MMS), as well as mobile Internet (email and Web-surfing), remain safe–i.e. non-cancer-causing–activities. That should make parents feel glad, for a change, that their teen and tween kids text too much. And besides avoiding possible cancer-causing behavior, marketers who use these platforms instead of voice calling are less likely to irritate message recipients, too.