The rumors are rampant: Cell phones — more specifically, the radio frequency waves they create – can cause cancer in those who use them, particularly those with their phones permanently attached to their ears.
The facts, however, present a very different reality.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cell phone use is exponentially growing, from 110 million U.S. users in 2000 to more than 303 million users in 2010. About 5 billion cell phones are in use worldwide, with cell phones becoming more technologically capable and seemingly more integral to daily life. But studies thus far show no link between cell phone use and the creation of various cancers in animals or humans.
One form of electromagnetic energy is called ionizing radiation, most commonly created in x-rays and radon. This type of radiation does cause cancer in high doses, particularly over long periods of time. The electromagnetic energy created by cell phones and other types of common appliances like microwave ovens, however, is considered non-ionizing. This has proven safe, so far, even after long-term exposures.
A 2005 study by the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet found that the incidences of meningioma or glioma cancerous tumors were the same for Swedish cell phone users as they were for those who didn’t use cell phones. The researchers’ conclusion: “The data do not support the hypothesis that mobile phone use is related to an increased risk of glioma or meningioma.”
This study was followed up by many others. A 2006 study by the Department of Pathology at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., determined that rats exposed to regular radiofrequency signals were no more likely to contract cancer than rats that weren’t. A 2008 study by researchers at the Kashima Laboratory in Kamisu, Japan, found no links between cell phone towers emitting low-frequency radio-frequency fields up to 800 mW/kg and the formation of cancerous cells.
In Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, despite a stark increase in cell phone use after about 1995, no increases in cancer rates were noted between 1974 and 2003, according to a time trend study in 2009 performed by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society. Similar time trend studies were performed in the United States, with the same negative correlative findings.
Perhaps more assuring is a global “INTERPHONE” control study in 2007, performed by leading researchers from dozens of epidemiological agencies, that researched cancer incidences in Finland, Australia, Denmark, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Israel, Italy, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. It is considered the most comprehensive debunking performed thus far to discredit the link between cell phone use and cancer contraction.
Though these studies clearly indicate no link so far between the two phenomena, most experts recommend further study, particularly over long-term periods and with electromagnetic radiation of greater power. This is largely due not only to how cell phones have just recently become widespread — with studies only evaluating their use over a span of about a decade or less — but also because their battery lives and emission strengths keep evolving to support our need to constantly stay in touch and entertained.