UMW Associate Professor of Biology Deb O’Dell will be featured on “Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?” on the With Good Reason public radio show. Her interview, which took place last August, is an encore presentation and will air August 3 to 9. The program is broadcast in Fredericksburg on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital on Sundays at 2 p.m.
O’Dell spent years researching the potential carcinogenic effects of this ever-present gadget, and she said her results “surprised and alarmed” her. A single 25-minute exposure to a cell phone could significantly alter the activity of certain genes – those that help regulate the reproduction of cells – for up to 48 hours, she said.
“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,” O’Dell said.
Public health officials have long debated the safety of cell phones and how the radiation they emit may be hazardous to the human body, even when they aren’t being used. “You don’t use your cell phone once every two days,” O’Dell said to With Good Reason host Sarah McConnell, who was “amazed” by the research.
Working with a team of UMW students, O’Dell explored this phenomenon using cultured cells. She separated them into different groups, placing them on human-head models constructed of bone, meat and chicken skin. A cell phone was positioned on one side of each model and the cultured cells on the opposite side, and O’Dell extracted molecules from the cells and analyzed the results.
O’Dell is a leading expert on the structure and function of the nervous system, magnetic orientation in animals and developmental neurobiology. She shared her research on bees’ use of magnetic fields in a previous appearance on With Good Reason in 2014. Her results showed that bees living in close proximity to cell phone towers may become disoriented and even produce less honey. She has also studied the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease.
A member of the Society for Neuroscience and the Virginia Academy of Science Society for Developmental Biology, O’Dell earned a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a bachelor’s degree from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania.
With Good Reason’s “Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?” also features faculty experts from other Virginia universities discussing breakthroughs in oncological treatments for melanoma, and blood and colon cancers. The episode runs through Aug. 9 on various stations throughout the week. Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature are available 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.