Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization whose goal is to shine the spotlight on outdated legislation, harmful farming practices and industry failures. Like others in the “fear space,” they believe BIG government regulations are bad, biased by BIG business; their regulations just as biased on the special interests are ‘better’. Their latest white paper consists of guidelines for radiofrequency radiation, written by their staff, accepted by a peer-reviewed journal based on a study by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). . [1]

I asked two of our scientific advisors, Dr. Karam and Susan Goldhaber, to comment on the report of the EWG, which we will do in four parts over the next week. Before giving the floor to our two experts, let me lay the foundation.

Two federal agencies share regulatory responsibility for mobile phones. The FCC determines radio frequency energy used by mobile phones and other wireless devices. The FDA defines security of such issuers and provides this information to the public.

Fears of cell phones

“The most consistent health risk associated with cell phone use is distracted driving and vehicle crashes. “

National Cancer Institute

Concerns were raised about radiation from mobile phones almost since their inception; after all, the use of mobile phones and wireless devices everywhere. The word radiation carries a lot of emotional baggage, but in this case, the radiation is in the low energy part of the spectrum – the radio frequency radiation

has little power to penetrate everything, including our fabric. And even when it does penetrate, its most common effect is thermal, local temperature rise. It is like ionizing, high-energy X-ray radiation, penetrating deeper tissue and breaking DNA bonds. Despite the lack of a direct way to cause a cell mutation, there has been a recurring concern about cell phones causing cancer – especially those in the head and neck, the places we most often hold. cell phones.

If these wireless devices cause cancer, why have decades of studies shown stable rates of brain tumors in adults and children when cell phone use has exploded exponentially?

Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

As you can imagine, the answer is both complex and uncertain. Dr Geoffrey Kabat, cancer epidemiologist, writing in the past that

“… it is not possible to prove that exposure is safe. What usually do risk assessment agencies, it is the use of animal data – and, where appropriate, human – to determine a level below which no adverse effects were observed, then add one percent safety margin or a thousand. This approach has been used successfully for decades.

The EWG believes it is time to reassess and that current levels should be significantly reduced. Their analysis uses the results of the NTP. But we believe that the underlying study is flawed because it uses a radio-frequency radiation of the entire body that does not reflect the use in the real world. The interpretation of scientific results is often in the eye of the beholder. The FDA, in comment on the NTP study underlying the EWG report said:

“Animal studies like this contribute to our discussions on this topic, but we must remember that the study was not designed to test the safety of cell phone use in humans, we can therefore not draw conclusions about the risks of mobile phone use. “

Yet this is what the EWG did.

The PNT study

The study found several tumors of Schwann cells in the heart of male rats, but not in females who received radiation radiofrequency total body for 9 hours a day for two years – about 75 times above the limits of radiofrequency radiation already in place. [2] The heart of the tumors are rare in humans, Schwann cell tumors even rarer; medical literature reports only 17 cases. As the researchers Noted at the time of their release

“The levels and duration of RFR exposure were far greater than what people experience even with the highest level of cell phone use and exposed the rodents’ entire body. Thus, these results should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone use.[Emphasis added]

Many experts disagreed with their point of view. The NTP peer review found there was clear evidence of an effect in male rats. In fairness, Schwann cell tumors are similar to cells found in areas of the brain associated with cell phone related tumors i.e. acoustic neuromas and gliomas.


It would not be a health problem if the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) did not intervene; after all, they identified coffee, hot water, and pickled vegetables as potentially carcinogens. In 2011, the IARC classified the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, based on an increased risk of glioma – a malignant type of brain cancer associated with the use of wireless phones. This classification was based on limited evidence in humans and animals, but IARC found that there was sufficient evidence to be considered “possibly carcinogenic.”

Intercom case-control study

This was the case-control study to further the use of mobile phones conducted in 13 countries and involving self-reporting of participants. The reported results varied. While most studies have shown no glioma or meningioma Associate, one study showed a slightly increased risk of glioma in people using the more time cell phone. Similarly, there was no consistent association between cell phones and location of the tumor.

Danish cohort study

This study used billing data from around 360,000 phones as a marker of cell phone use as well as data from the Danish Cancer Registry. They could not identify any association between cell phone use and neurological tumors.

Cohort one million women

This prospective study in the UK looked at self-reported cell phone use. Again, there was no association with neural tumors. An early discovery of an association with acoustic neuromas lost statistical significance as more years of cell phone use accumulated.


EWG also expressed concerns about the effect of radio frequency radiation on our children. Children are not little adults; they have different ratios of the body. For example, their heads are smaller, which for possibly different effects of penetrating rays, if radio frequency studies in children are essential.

It is estimated that over 50% of children over 10 years have a mobile phone. And they spend two or more hours a day on these devices. But as any parent will tell you, they do not pass phone calls with the phone on the head. They parade and watching social media, that distances much radiation from the mobile phone, making it less able to penetrate the distance, much less in their body.

The battle lines are drawn

“Indeed, the largest wireless borrowed the same strategy and the same tactics that the big tobacco and big oil pioneer in deceiving the public about the risks of smoking and climate change, respectively. And like their tobacco and petroleum counterparts, CEOs in the wireless industry have lied to the public even after their own scientists privately warned that their products could be dangerous, especially to children.

The Guardian

The fight for cell phone radiation safety mirrors similar skirmishes over tobacco, chemicals, and our all too human behavior.

  • Distrust of authority, both scientists and officials of public health, inside and outside the government.
  • As the NY Times reported, outside agencies, i.e. Russian propaganda, have sparked dissatisfaction with stories about the damage to 5G networks.
  • Accusations on both sides of picking study results that support their views while ignoring other research
  • Add the Big name to the wireless communications industry to suggest a monolithic and evil force.

For this series, we will consider

  • how “radiation” from mobile phones affect the body – Radio frequencies and cancer
  • the impact of the experimental design on a study and its applicability to humans
  • how the data from these studies are analyzed and interpreted

These will help you better understand the EWG study, as well as why it should be taken with a ‘grain of salt’.

[1] All authors are employed by EWG and report no competing interest. Funding comes from Jonas Philanthropies – “A four-year grant will fund Philanthropies Jonas The Jonas at EWG Initiative, which aims to become the leading source of online information for parents in search of credible, scientific and exploitable on the impact of toxic chemicals, contaminants and toxic substances on children’s health Too bad for transparency

[2] The specific absorption rate (SAR) measures “The relative amount of RF energy absorbed by a user’s head of a cordless handset. The FCC limit for public exposure from cell phones is a SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W / kg) ”.

The series

Part I – Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer

Part II – Radiofrequency radiation and cancer

Part III – Experimental Design (or Why Rats Aren’t People – among others)

Part IV – 5.3 billion mobile phone users should they worry?

Sources: Is 5G making you sick? Probably not CNET

Scientific evidence for the safety of mobile phones Food and drug administration

The inconvenient truth about cancer and cellphones The Guardian

Cell phones and cancer risk National Cancer Institute

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