Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

In multiple 2-year studies, the National Toxicology Program exposed rats and mice to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) used in 2G and 3G cell phones.

Their studies found:

  • Clear evidence of an association between high exposure to cell phone RFR and tumors in the hearts of male rats.
  • Some evidence of an association with brain tumors in male rats. 
  • Some evidence of an association with adrenal gland tumors in male rats.

When the results were published, the FDA released a statement clarifying that these findings do not necessarily translate to actual human risk to normal usage:

“…we only begin to observe effects to animal tissue at exposures that are 50 times higher than the current whole body safety limits set by the FCC for radiofrequency energy exposure.”

What Other Studies Suggest

Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the potential link between cell phone radiation and cancer, but the findings have been mixed.

Some research suggests an increased risk of certain types of tumors associated with cell phone usage, while other studies have found no link at all. A few studies even saw a decreased risk of tumors related to cell phone radiation, though those findings are criticized.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses (which pool the results of several studies to get a more reliable estimate of the effect) have found a statistically significant increased risk of brain tumors from cell phone use. Still, the magnitude of the risk may be small.

These reviews also note that the studies that show no harmful effects often have significant flaws in their methodology and potential conflicts of interest, explaining the discrepancy.

Conflicts of Interest

Systematic reviews have demonstrated a clear connection between funding sources, study quality, and study outcomes.

Research funded by the cellphone industry is much less likely to find harmful effects from cell phone radiation than those not funded by the industry.

This conflict of interest could be one reason why the findings of studies on cell phone radiation are so inconsistent.

Should You Worry?

If you’re worried about the possible health effects of cell phone radiation, the best thing you can do is limit your exposure as much as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Use hands-free devices as much as possible to keep the phone away from your head.
  • Limit your cell phone calls to short conversations.
  • Don’t sleep with your phone next to your head.
  • Minimize how much your young children use cell phones, as they may possibly be more susceptible to the effects of radiation.

Overall, the increased risk of tumors associated with cell phone radiation seems to be minor, so normal usage probably won’t significantly affect your health.

The risks associated with using a cell phone while driving and excessive social media users are likely to have a much more significant impact on your health than any potential risks from radiation.

If you’re still concerned, talk to your doctor or another health professional to get their insight and perspective.