Taking Care of Your Health

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

September 25, 2018

Extensive research has been performed to date on the health effects of cellphone use. However, some of these studies have produced vastly different results. One possible reason is that the subject under scrutiny is a moving target – the technology itself and the ways in which it is used are constantly changing. Some studies suggest that the widespread use of mobile devices is contributing to an increase in cancer rates, while others have found that they pose virtually no health risks. These ambiguities are causing a lot of confusion among the general public. Should you be worried?

The differences between non-ionizing and ionizing radiation

Unlike the ionizing radiation produced by X-rays and ultraviolet light – which is known to carry enough energy to cause cellular and DNA damage that can lead to cancer – the non-ionizing radiation emitted by cellphones, cellphone towers, Wi-Fi routers, radios, microwaves and other common sources is widely believed to be harmless due to its lack of potency. One concern about the latest research findings is that, contrary to popular belief, some evidence suggests that non-ionizing radiation may have sufficient potency to cause biological changes that may lead to tumor development in animals (as of yet, there is no evidence to suggest a similar effect in humans).

However, it’s important to understand that some of this research is inherently flawed. For instance, many studies are funded by the cellphone industry, which strongly suggests the possibility of bias. Also, there is a general lack of randomized controlled trials, mainly because it would be difficult and expensive to randomly assign specific levels of cellphone use to thousands of study participants for at least five years (and to find enough participants who would be willing to adhere to such restrictions). This would be necessary in order to perform a randomized controlled trial that would yield clear and reliable answers.

Still, while animal studies have yielded mixed conclusions about non-ionizing radiation and brain tumors, the highest-quality human studies performed to date have consistently shown no correlation between non-ionizing radiation and cancer risk. Until better information becomes available, you may want to take some steps to reduce your exposure to non-ionizing radiation. For instance, don’t carry your cellphone in a pocket or otherwise wear it on your body, use a wired earpiece rather than holding your cellphone to your ear and don’t sleep with your cellphone next to your pillow.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can reduce your cancer risk level, you can request an appointment with an oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.