A World Health Organization team of experts concluded the ever-present communication devices can cause brain cancer -- and advised the planet's 5 billion cell users to cut their exposure to the radiation they emit.

WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer panel said yesterday they examined every published study on the subject and concluded cellphones are "possibly carcinogenic."

The finding reverses WHO's previous verdict that there are no risks from cellphone use. It also triggered a rebuke from the ever-expanding industry and skepticism from other cancer experts.

The WHO study put phones in the same category as a long list of potential cancer-causers, including the pesticide DDT, lead, chloroform, talcum powder and even pickled vegetables.

That category is the third-highest on WHO's list, below those items that definitely cause cancer or "probably" do.

The US-based wireless association CTIA said the WHO scientists "did not conduct new research, but rather reviewed published studies."

Some studies, including those done by the FCC and Food and Drug Administration, have found no cancer link. But the European Environmental Agency has called for taking cellphone dangers much more seriously, saying they may be as risky as smoking.

One study found that among heavy users -- who averaged 30 minutes on their cells over a 10-year period -- there was a 40 percent increased risk of a brain tumor called a glioma, WHO said.

Other experts questioned the WHO finding, pointing out that there hasn't been a worldwide spike in brain cancer during the last 30 years -- while cellphones have become almost indispensable.

Kurt Straif, who heads WHO's monographs program, issued a word of caution.

"It is not at the moment clearly established that the use of mobile phones does in fact cause cancer," he said. It's up to "the individual consumer to make a decision about whether the current level of evidence is strong enough to take such precautionary measures."

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