Cell Phones and Cancer: No Clear Connection

Brain tumors are not linked to mobile phone or wireless use

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For years, there has been concern that cell phone use could cause cancer, especially in the brain and neck. But new research signals that those theories may be a wrong call.

A committee of scientists in Norway studied the possible health hazards from the energy created by mobile phones and other transmitting devices, such as wireless networks.

The team determined that these devices do not cause cancer or pose other health risks.

"When calling, use an ear piece."

Professor Jan Alexander, assistant director-general at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, served as chair of the Norwegian Expert Committee, which evaluated a number of possible health effects from low-level magnetic fields.

These fields are created when cell phones and other wireless devices transmit radio signals, called radiofrequency (RF) fields.

  • The researchers did not find any link between mobile phone use and fast-growing tumors or slow-growing tumors, which were studied in people who had used mobile phones for up to 20 years.
  • Scientists also found no cancer link from limited available research about cell phone use causing lymphoma and leukemia.
  • No data was discovered showing that the magnetic fields could harm male fertility or cause other reproductive damage.
  • No other diseases or adverse health effects were reported, including changes to the endocrine (related to glands that secrete hormones) and immune systems.

Some cell phone users may believe they have an “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” and their bodies are being affected by the electromagnetic energy put out by cell phones and wireless networks. But the committee did not see any evidence to support this.

“A large number of studies suggest that these symptoms must have other causes,” said Professor Alexander. “Research provides no evidence to support that reducing the use of mobile phones or wireless networks helps.”

He added that the skin may heat up slightly due to the heat in the battery but not from the radio transmitter in the cell phone.

The committee based its report on previously published research by international groups and individuals. The team also looked at population and cancer registry studies conducted in several countries.

In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

But research from a group of scientists in Britain, the United States and Sweden are in line with findings from the Norwegian Expert Committee.

In that report published in the July 2011 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, Professor Anthony Swerdlow from the Institute of Cancer Research in London and his colleagues said, “Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumors in adults.”

Based on its findings, the committee advises people to take “general caution.” The committee says that an example of exercising general caution would be for “the authorities to inform that hands-free kits will significantly reduce exposure from mobile phones.”

This report was published on September 13 by the government of Norway. There were no conflicts of interest noted.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 18, 2012
Last Updated:
September 18, 2012