UMW Associate Professor of Biology Deb O’Dell will be featured on “Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?” set to begin airing Saturday, Aug. 18, on the With Good Reason public radio show. The program, broadcast in Fredericksburg on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital at 2 p.m. Sundays, explores O’Dell’s research on the possible carcinogenic effects of one of America’s favorite gadgets.
Her results – she found that a single 25-minute exposure can significantly alter the activity of genes for up to 48 hours – “surprised and alarmed” her.
“You don’t use your cell phone once every two days,” O’Dell told With Good Reason host Sarah McConnell, who said she was “amazed” by the research. “What I’m afraid of [is] that these changes are not being permitted to go back to their original state … but rather, by continually activating them, we’re causing them to change persistently and that could then lead to changes in how cells reproduce themselves leading then, maybe, to tumors.”
Questions surrounding the safety of cell phones and the effects of the radiation they emit have long loomed large. O’Dell has spent years – and involved several UMW students – researching this phenomenon. Her studies meant culturing cells, dividing them into groups and placing them on a human-head model made from bone, meat and chicken skin. She then placed a cell phone on one side of the model and the cultured cells on the other, before extracting molecules and analyzing the results.
An expert on the structure and function of the nervous system, magnetic orientation in animals and developmental neurobiology, O’Dell appeared previously on With Good Reasonin 2014, when she shared her research on bees’ use of magnetic fields. The results of those studies suggested that bees living near cell phone towers may become disoriented and produce less honey.
A member of the Society for Neuroscience, O’Dell earned a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania’s Ursinus College and a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
With Good Reason’s “Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?” also features faculty experts from other universities speaking about breakthroughs in oncological treatments for melanoma, and blood and colon cancers. The episode will run through Friday, Aug.24, on various stations throughout the week. Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature will be available beginning Saturday on the show’s website.
A program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, With Good Reason airs weekly on all of Virginia’s public radio stations and on public radio stations in more than 30 states across the country and in Germany.