Are There Links Between Cell Phones And Cancer?

To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.

Person holding iphone: Are There Links Between Cell Phones and Cancer?Since its first demonstration in 1973, the mobile phone has been revolutionizing the way the entire world lives. Over the years it is not only the appearance of cellular phones that has changed but so has the way we look at the safety and health concerns of these handheld devices.

Article Overview

Cell Phones & Human Health

At some point over recent years, someone thought to ask about the potential of health effects from cell phone usage. This sparked a wide range of research into exactly how cell phones could harm our health. In the 1980s cell phones were scarce, in the 1990s and 2000s cell phones became a part of our everyday life, and more exposure led to more consideration of the effects of their use.

How Do Cell Phones Work?

Cellular phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range, this is what many researchers believe contributes to adverse health effects of cell phone usage. Cell phones are much like complex radios and they emit electromagnetic radiation.

Electromagnetic Radiation

There are two different types of electromagnetic radiation: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is the type of radiation that most people are familiar with in the use of x-rays. Ionizing radiation can pose definite health effects which is why anytime someone undergoes an x-ray they wear a lead vest to block the radiation.

Non-ionizing radiation is generally believed to be safe even though it has been shown to release heat. Researchers have yet to prove that any long-term tissue damage can be caused in humans by non-ionizing radiation. Examples of this type of radiation include visible light, radio frequency energy and microwave radiation.

Isn’t Cell Phone Radiation Non-Ionizing?

If cell phone radiation is non-ionizing radiation, how can there be any debate as to whether or not it has adverse health effects? The fact is that while the FDA claims that there is no evidence at this time to support the fact that cell phones cause harmful health effects, there is also no way to confirm that the potential for negative health risks doesn’t exist.

According to the FCC, exposure to high levels of radio-frequency radiation can cause damage to human tissue. Considering the proximity to our head, many believe this threat of damage from exposure is very real.

Learn more about the radiation cell phones use in this video:

How Can Radio-Frequency Radiation Damage Tissue?

The FCC claims that exposing human tissue to radio-frequency radiation can result in heating of that tissue. They liken this type of heating to placing food in a microwave. The damage is caused, they believe, because of the body’s inability to cope with and dissipate these levels of heat.

In addition to heating tissue over shorter periods of time through exposure to high levels of radio-frequency radiation, officials also question the effects of long-term exposure to this type of radiation. What about those individuals who seem to live with their cell phone stuck to their ear?

Unfortunately for these individuals, there simply was not enough interest in this topic years ago, and as such, very little long-term data is available. While researchers today are conducting studies on long-term exposure of human tissue to radio-frequency radiation, it may be a while before any reliable data is discovered.

What Illnesses Are Claimed To Be Related To Cell Phone Use?

Over recent years, there have been many illnesses that people claim to be linked to cell phone use, these include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Cell Phone Use Research

As with most controversial issues, researchers have been conducting studies on both sides of the fence in an attempt to prove or debunk the negative health effects of cell phones.

The World Health Organization’s Position

On May 31, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) released information stating that it believes the use of mobile phones could lead to long-term health risks. This led the WHO to classify cell phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans and stating that it poses a carcinogenic hazard. This information was gleaned after reviewing many studies on cell phone safety. One of the studies referred to found that individuals who reported heavy use of their cell phones (that is 10 years of using their phones for at least 30 minutes a day, every day) showed a 40% increased risk for brain cancer.

The British Medical Journal Questions The WHO

Looking at this study the British Medical Journal has questioned the validity of the data. If individuals with this level of cell phone usage showed a 40% increase in gliomas, then rates of brain cancer would have skyrocketed over the past few years. With the significant increase in cell phone users from 1990 to the present, the British Medical Journal is right to question this study.

The Lennart Hardell et al. Study

The Lennart Hardell et al. study was published in 2009 and consisted of a meta-analysis of 11 different studies from peer-reviewed journals. The data taken from this research seemed to indicate that individuals who had been using a cell phone for at least the past 10 years had twice the risk of developing a brain tumor on the same side of the head that their cell phone use occurred on.

Children & Cell Phones Research

The topic of children and cell phones is a relatively new one, and as such, there is very little research to attest to the negative health effects it may have. Only recently have children begun using cell phones with any frequency, this is a result of the lowering cost of cellular phones, the decreased appearance of landlines in homes and a significant change in parenting style.

It wasn’t until the middle of the 1990s that most children had any interaction with cellular phones, so any existing research is simply not long-term enough to be reliable at this time. What do we know about children and cell phones? While there is no evidence directly pointing to ill effects of cell phone use on children, most national governments encourage parents to discourage their children from cell phone use. If preventing cell phone use is not an option, the government suggests at least limiting the amount of time children are permitted to use cellular devices.

The Journal Of The National Cancer Institute Research Study

In July of 2011, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute issued a publication relating to cell phone use and the occurrence of brain tumors in children. This was the first publication of its kind. The study focused on both children and adolescents and was based on research conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute and Swiss Tropical. The children and adolescents in the study were from Sweden, Norway and Denmark and were asked to self-report on their cell phone use.

These students also provided cell phone records in some cases. Data collected from this research found that of the 1,000 children and adolescents researched, 350 had been diagnosed with brain cancer and 650 of them had not. The paper released by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that there was no conclusive evidence in the findings to indicate a link between cell phone use and brain tumors.

The NCI believes that any association between the two is “casual.” This finding was argued on April 5, 2012, by the Environmental Health Trust who said that the team’s interpretation of their data was not only flawed but also contained many statistical errors.

A senior research fellow with the Environmental Health Trust, Lloyd Morgan, said that he finds the study to be “sloppy.” Morgan says that were the statistics correctly interpreted, data would show a 115% increased risk of brain tumors in children who used cell phones versus those children who did not. That’s more than double the risk of brain cancer for children that frequently use cell phones.

When Morgan came forward with his criticisms, the author of the July study responded. Martin Roosli said that while there were limitations on their study, the assumptions that Morgan was making could not hold. He explained that Morgan was unable to explain why the rates of brain cancer in children and adolescents in Nordic countries remained stable despite an increase in cell phone usage. Roosli admitted that they could not rule out a slight increase in risk for brain cancer based on cell phone use, but the possibility was small.

Why Is Cell Phone Use In Children Such A Significant Issue?

If all humans are equal, why is cell phone use in children such a hot-button issue? Well, in this case, all humans are not equal. Children and adolescents are still undergoing many significant changes in their brain structure and brain chemistry. It is unknown as to whether or not interference with developing brains by cell phone radiation can cause long-term effects. No one is sure whether the immature brain is more susceptible to radiation, but researchers hope someday to be able to find out.

Unfortunately, to date, only two studies have been conducted to assess the link between cell phone use and brain tumors in children. The primary study is the aforementioned Nordic study and the second is a research study taking place in 13 different countries called mobi-kids.


Mobi-kids is a self-proclaimed study on communication technology, environment and brain tumors in young people. The international case-control study is set up to look at the effects of many communication devices as well as environmental risk factors on brain tumors in young people. The study itself is funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community.

The study will look at young people from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan and the Netherlands. Over a period of 5 years, the project will invite approximately 2,000 individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 with brain tumors, and an equal number of those without, to take part in the study.

Researchers will administer detailed questionnaires to assess many factors including cell phone use and demographics. The study sent out official invitations to study participants in 2010. This is a much more unique study than that reviewed by the National Cancer Institute Research because it incorporates children from a much broader demographic including European and non-European countries.

Quality Control Of Cell Phones In General

What many cell phone consumers don’t know is that every model of cell phone must be tested for radiation. Levels of radiation must meet FCC standards before these phones are permitted to be sold in the United States.

The exposure limit of radio-frequency energy was established in 1996 by the FCC. The agency also provided many testing guidelines to assist cell phone manufacturers in developing phones that complied with safety standards. The current rate of maximum exposure is based on the specific absorption rate.

The SAR is a method of measuring the amount of radiation the human body absorbs through using the product. The FCC has established the current maximum SAR level at 1.6 watts per kilogram. In addition to this testing procedure, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association required cell phone manufacturers to label their products with their tested radiation levels.

Taking Your Health Into Your Own Hands

While the data is still unreliable as to the health effects of cellular phone usage, there are many things you can do to safeguard your health. One of the most popular solutions is to use a hands-free device such as a headset. The headset will reduce the proximity of radiation to your tissue and reduce the chance of damage from heating.

It is also important to be proactive when selecting a cellular phone, stay informed about the SAR energy that your phone emits. If your current phone has a higher than desired level of SAR energy, trade it in for a better option.

Other solutions suggested by those concerned with radiation exposure include: limiting cell phone use to shorter conversations and using a landline for longer conversations as well as using a cell phone that has an antenna that can be placed outside of the car.

Protect Yourself From Radiation

There are products you can purchase for your phone to prevent radiation from harming you. Below are some solutions for you to consider.

The General Consensus: Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

While studies are still taking place as to the health effects of cell phone usage, including this one in 2016, the consensus seems to be that there is no negative health conditions directly linked to cell phone usage at this time. According to a report released by the U.S. General Accounting Office, while it is possible for radio-frequency energy to cause heating in biological tissue, the levels present in cellular phones are far below this level.

Do you think cell phones are connected to cancer?

About The Author:

Sadie has a bachelor’s in communications and minor in business from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been writing about, researching and a user of security and smart home technology since 2012. As an early adapter and avid user of gadgets, she’s not only well-versed in how to use them but also passionate about helping others integrate them into their lives and homes.

Having lived in various urban neighborhoods in major cities, she has experienced her share of property crimes over the years; from car break-ins to stolen bikes. As a result, she’s extra cautious when it comes to protecting herself and her property.

Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

New comments are closed at this time.

Comments (2)