Concerns that cell phones cause brain tumors have not stopped millions of people from enjoying wireless links to friends, family, and business associates. The all-too-familiar chirp of a cell phone shatters the peace at the beach, breaks up conversations, and intrudes just about everywhere. But these disturbances may be the least of our concerns.
People have voiced concern about the dangers of radiofrequency (RF) energy from cell phones. After reviewing the results of multiple studies, though, scientists have not found definite evidence about the harm from cell phones.
One case-control study of 996 adults with a brain tumor found that using a cell phone on one side of the head was associated with an excess risk of having a brain tumor. Despite this, most case studies have found that long-term cellular phone use is not clearly associated with increased risk of a brain tumor.
A large case-control study coordinated by the World Health Organization that included 5,117 patients with brain tumors and matched control patients without brain tumors did not find a clear link between cell phone use and risk of brain cancer. The authors warned that further research should be performed. They especially felt that more studies were needed, as the patients in this study used the cell phones less than people do regularly today.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the health risk small, and given the evidence they have available, has not linked cell phones with any health problems. If you are concerned about the risk of using a cell phone, the FDA recommends the following:
Although current studies do not connect cell phone use to brain cancer, that does not mean this will not change. Cell phone users are getting younger, which means their exposure to RF energy is longer. Future studies will determine if longer-term cell phone use has an effect on the brain or not.
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association
US Food and Drug Administration
Public Health Agency of Canada
Carlo G, Jenrow RS. Scientific progress—wireless phones and brain cancer: current state of the science. Med Gen Med. 2000;2(3):E40.
Davis FG, McCarthy BJ, et al. Centralized databases available for describing primary brain tumor incidence, survival, and treatment: Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States; surveillance, epidemiology, and end results; and National Cancer Data Base. Neuro-Oncology. 1999;1(3):205–211.
Hardell L, Carlberg M, et al. Meta-analysis of long-term mobile phone use and the association with brain tumours. Int J Oncol. 2008;32(5):1097-1103.
Health issues: Do cell phones pose a health hazard? US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/HomeBusinessandEntertainment/CellPhones/ucm116282.htm. Updated October 1, 2014. Accessed April 12, 2017.
Hepworth SJ, Schoemaker MJ, et al. Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: Case-control study. BMJ. 2006;332(7546):883-887.
INTERPHONE Study Group. Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study. Int J Epidemiol. 2010;39(3):675-94.
Johansen C, Boice JD, et al. Cellular telephones and cancer: Update of a nationwide Danish cohort.. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006;98(23):1707-1713.
Reducing exposure: Hands-free kits and other accessories steps to reduce exposure to radiofrequency energy. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/HomeBusinessandEntertainment/CellPhones/ucm116293.htm. Updated October 1, 2014. Accessed April 12, 2017.
Last reviewed April 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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