We use them every day, without a second thought. But can mobile phones cause cancer? We look at the research
By Jody McCutcheon
Mobile phones have become part of the fabric of our daily lives. They keep us in touch with friends and family, whilst also serving as mini-computers, calendars, cameras and even video recorders.
Apart from debates about whether mobile phones are actually ruining the way we interact with friends, family and the world, and aside from the obvious dangers of increasing numbers of people driving and checking cell phones, mounting evidence points to even more disturbing news that skeptics have long suspected: for all their convenience and comfort, cell phones may well be an important source of radiation. But can mobile phones cause cancer?
The short answer seems to be ‘yes.’
Two big reasons for growing cell phone concerns are increases in their use and, simultaneously, their operating power. According to CTIA, The Wireless Association, an organisation that represents mobile phone manufacturers, between 2000 and 2010, cell phone use tripled among the US population. And that number has grown even more over the past decade. This proliferation makes mobile communication devices the biggest, most chronic source of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation for humans.
And according to a recent Institute of Science in Society report, newer mobile phone technology makes them more powerful and possibly more harmful. Cancer risks from newer phones has risen as much as fourfold, with and possibly a shorter latency period of cancer onset of five to ten years, compared to twenty-five or more years for earlier models.
But before asking ‘can mobile phones cause cancer,’ we need to understand how these devices work.
How Mobile Phones Work
Cellphones are like transmitters. They pass signals to and from nearby cellular towers using radiofrequency (RF) waves. Falling somewhere in size between FM radio waves and microwaves, RF waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation.
Unlike stronger (or ionizing) types of radiation (such as x-rays, gamma rays or UV light), non-ionizing radiation isn’t powerful enough to destroy chemical bonds in DNA. This is a process that can lead to the growth of cancer cells. Many experts have therefore claimed that cell phone RF energy doesn’t cause cancer.
However, while you speak on your phone, RF energy is absorbed by tissue in the body area closest to where the phone is held. Factors that affect the amount of RF energy absorbed include:
- how long you use the phone
- whether you use hands-free or speaker mode
- the distance and path between cellphone and nearest tower
- how much mobile phone traffic is in the area at the time of use
- the model of phone you’re using
Some people report feeling the side of their head where the phone is ‘getting hot’. Others say using their phone gives them headaches. There are good reasons for these complaints.
Contrary to the aforementioned prevailing belief in phone safety, several relatively recent studies, including this one, suggest that radiofrequency radiation (RFR) acts as a powerful oxidative stressor on living cells, thus making it a potential hazard to human health.
Investigations Of Mobile Phones And Radiation
Perhaps the gold standard of investigations supporting the harmlessness of cellphones is the 2010 Interphone study. The largest to date, the Interphone study indicated no relationship between cellphones and brain tumours.
The next year, a report from the Institute for Cancer Research also suggested no definitive link, yet introduced the disturbing spectre of the possibility of long-term health damage. That same year, a National Institute of Health study said cellphone use may change human brain activity, and that these changes may be exacerbated after less than an hour of phone use.
Finally, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that RF electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones might increase the risk of glioma (brain tumour). The proverbial ball had begun to roll.
One saw a significant increase in California of cases of malignant tumours in brain areas nearest to where people hold their phones
Adding to the discussion in 2012, a notable study saw a significant increase in California of cases of malignant tumours. These mainly happened in the brain areas nearest to where people hold their phones. Although causation can’t be confirmed from such findings, the results beg the question of whether there’s a link between cellphone use and tumour location.
Modern Studies On Tumors and Cell Phone Usage
Jumping forward to 2014, two studies are worth a mention. First, an investigation compared cellphone habits of 1,380 Swedish patients with malignant brain tumours to those of people without brain tumours. While the study was limited by its data-gathering methods, relying as it did on participants and their memories of cellphone usage, the investigators nonetheless gathered significant information.
Those who’d used cellphones for twenty to twenty-five years were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with glioma as those who reported using cell phones for less than a year. Those who’d use them more than twenty-five years were three times as likely. People who claimed to have talked on cell phones the most (more than 1,486 hours a month) had double the risk of developing glioma, versus those who claimed to have used their phone fewer than 122 hours.
The takeaway here is that the more hours and years spent with cell phones pressed to your head, the higher your risk of developing brain cancer. The good news is that the absolute risk remains relatively low. Some baseline numbers were established in 2012, suggesting that only 5 in 100,000 adults in Europe, and 6.4 in 100,000 in the US, were diagnosed with any kind of malignant brain tumour. That’s a 0.005-0.0064% chance of developing brain cancer, while tripling that risk raises the number to about 0.015%.
More Bad News
Another significant 2014 study, conducted by French scientists, appeared in Occupational And Environmental Medicine. In it, 253 cases of glioma and 194 cases of meningioma were examined and compared to a control group of healthy people with regards to mobile phone use. Investigators found that fifteen hours a month–or roughly thirty minutes a day–of cellphone use over five years increases the risk of both glioma and meningioma, especially among people who work “phone-heavy jobs” such as sales.
Oddly, this French study found that tumours that did develop occurred on the opposite side of the head from where the phone was held, contrary to findings from the earlier-mentioned 2012 study.
Finally, there was a controversial meta-study done recently that suggests a correlation between cell phones and DNA damage. This damage can add up over time, resulting in health problems ranging from cancer to headaches to fatigue and even skin problems.
One example of the many findings is that using a cell phone for twenty minutes a day for five years causes a threefold increases in the risk of developing one particular kind of brain tumour. Raising cell phone use to an hour a day elevates the risk of developing various tumours fivefold. This is bad news, given the fact that there are more and more online tutoring and classes being offered to our children.
Manipulated Safety Levels
It should be noted here that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the arbiter of safety levels of cell phone radiation. However, the agency has a long history of corruption. And on February 2, 2020, a historic petition was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The petition calls on the court to find out why the FCC has not updated their 25-year-old guidelines on wireless technology radiation. The petition states that the FCC has “failed to promulgate rational, science-based radiofrequency emissions rules.”
This legal battle seeks to protect the public from the non-thermal harms of wireless radiation. It also seeks to protect the public from the potential corruption between the FCC and the telecom industry. For the case, Professor David Carpenter, a renowned scientist, produced evidence detailing the harms of radio-frequency emissions, and pointed out that since 1996, radio-frequency-related sickness has skyrocketed.
When the FCC opened a docket asking for public comment in 2013, hundreds of scientists and concerned individuals spoke out. Evidence was presented to show how pulsed wave EMFs cause breaks in cellular DNA and are a source of oxidative stress. These EMFs disrupt voltage-gated calcium channels in human cells and elicit neuropsychiatric affect in human brains.
However, it seems the FCC is still refusing to acknowledge the growing body of evidence of the harms of non-thermal wireless radiation.
So if the people in charge of regulating cell phone radiation aren’t doing their job, what can we do to protect ourselves?
What You Can Do
First, be aware that children are at greater risk than you are. Due to their smaller heads, thinner skulls and higher amounts of brain activity, they should never use mobile phones. Except, maybe, in emergencies.
And kids should never have mobile phones under their pillows or beside their beds at night! The earlier that kids start using mobile phones, the more radiation their heads will have absorbed. Alarmingly, it’s been reported that those who use cell phones before age twenty are up to five times more likely to develop glioma within ten to twenty years.
Additional protective measures you can take include:
- Keep cell phone use to a minimum.
- Whenever possible, text, don’t talk.
- Don’t carry your phone on your body. Put it in a purse or knapsack.
- Use hands-free to keep the frequency away from your head.
- Only use cellphones in areas with excellent reception. The weaker the reception, the more power the cell phone uses, and thus the more radiation emitted.
- Choose a phone with a low Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) value. SAR measures the energy absorbed from phone into body. Different phones have different SAR levels. The maximum allowable SAR in the US is 1.6watts per kilogram of body weight.
- You can also use protection devices like the Bioprotector, which has been scientifically tested to be beneficial for protection against pathogenic emissions by harmonising the deformed bioshield of the human body.
So, can mobile phones cause cancer?
It’s difficult to establish a definite link between mobile phone use and cancer. But the evidence for health issues caused by cell phone radiation – including cancer – is mounting.
The proliferation of mobile phones and their rapidly changing technology has produced an urgent need for clearer answers. Further research is definitely required – and that’s especially true with the rollout of 5G, which has never been proven to be safe.
My advice? Ditch the smartphone and get a ground line instead. It just might improve your physical and mental health more than you know.
Do you think mobile phones can cause cancer? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below!