This is a topic that has been bugging us for years now and still the answer is not clear. Now that the number of mobile phones worldwide has reached billions, it is about time that we revisit the issue of the possible link between mobile telephony and health problems. This month, I will be writing a series of posts on the health effects of mobile phones and the latest research results.
Specifically, I summarize below the latest update on the link between mobile phone and cancer.
As a background intro let us recap of what we know about electromagnetic fields (EMF). There are two types of EMF, namely:
- extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF) which is emitted by electronic appliances and power lines and
- radiofrequency (RF) radiation which is emitted by wireless devices such as mobile and cordless phones, and their base stations.
In this post, I will be reviewing studies and opinions as to whether RF radiation is causing cancer.
In 1990s, in order to address increasing concerns over the use of mobile telephony, several research studies were conducted to investigate how RF radiation exposure affects our health. Specifically, the studies investigated the link between mobile phone use and the incidence of brain tumors such as glioma, meningioma, acoustic neuroma and cancer of the parotid gland.
These studies were mostly part of the global INTERPHONE studies conducted by different countries which included Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. The INTERPHONE studies were funded by international and governmental agencies but also received financial support from the telecoms industry, e.g. the GSM Association (GSMA) and the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF).
What the research studies say
- Most of the INTERPHONE studies did not find a significant link between brain tumors and mobile phone use. French, German and UK studies did not find any evidence that mobile phone users in these countries have an increased risk for meningioma or neuroma.
- One of the largest US study which involved more than 12,000 participants found no overall increased risk for brain tumors among mobile phone users.
- The majority of scientific and medical articles published in the last 10 years did not find any association between RF exposure through mobile phone use and increased risk for cancer.
- In 2009, California researchers report that “short-term exposure to mobile phone base station signals does not affect cognitive functioning or physiological measures in individuals who report sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and controls.”
- Also this year, Japanese researchers reported EMF emitted by third generation mobile phone system does not seem to affect regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in humans.
What the health authorities say
- The US National Cancer Institute says that “the majority of these studies do not show any link between cell phone use and cancer; however, the National Cancer Institute cautions that more research needs to be done. Areas to consider include possible effects of long-term, heavy use of cell phones and potential differences between analog and digital technologies.”
- According to Cancer Research UK, RF radiation coming from handsets, headsets and base stations are too low to cause damage to human DNA and cause cancer.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO),”current scientific evidence indicates that exposure to RF fields, such as those emitted by mobile phones and their base stations, is unlikely to induce or promote cancers.”
In my next post, I will be presenting what the other side has to say, e.g. who says that mobile phone use can cause cancer.