Can mobile phones cause cancer in people? This is a question that has been debated for years, and there is still no clear answer. However, some new research has suggested that there may be a link between cell phone use and cancer.
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Mobile phones and cancer – is there a link?
Cancer is a disease caused by abnormal cells in the body that divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. Most cancers start off in one part of the body before they can spread to other areas.
There is no clear evidence that mobile phones cause cancer in humans. Some studies have suggested a possible link, but other studies have not found any such link.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by mobile phones, as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’. This is based on limited evidence that these fields might cause brain cancer in people.
More research is needed to explore this possible link further and to understand how mobile phone use might affect cancer risk.
How do mobile phones affect our bodies?
Mobile phones emitradiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by the human body when in close proximity to the phone. The main issue with mobile phone radiation is that it is a type of low frequency EMF radiation. This means that it is not high enough in energy to cause damage to our DNA directly, but it can still have an effect on our cells and their function.
There are two main ways that mobile phone radiation can affect our cells: thermal effects and non-thermal effects. Thermal effects occur when the absorption of radiofrequency energy by the body results in an increase in temperature. This is why you should never use your phone while it is charging – the increased temperature could damage your skin or even cause a fire. Non-thermal effects are changes in cell function that occur without a change in temperature. These effects are thought to be the result of long-term exposure to EMF radiation.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency EMF radiation as a possible human carcinogen (category 2B), based on an increased risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use. However, the link between mobile phone radiation and cancer is far from clear, and more research is needed before we can say definitively whether or not there is a causal link between the two.
Are children more at risk from mobile phone radiation?
There is no scientific evidence that mobile phones cause cancer in humans, including children and adolescents. However, some studies suggest that there could be a possible link between exposure to mobile phone radiation and certain types of cancer in animals.
How can I reduce my risk from mobile phone radiation?
Mobile phone use has increased exponentially over the past two decades. In 2011, there were an estimated 5.6 billion subscriptions worldwide, a figure that is predicted to increase to 7.6 billion by 20171. Given the large number of people using mobile phones, even a small increase in the incidence of adverse effects could have broad public health implications.
There are two main types of radiation emitted from mobile phones: non-ionizing radiation (radio waves) and ionizing radiation (microwaves). Radio waves are low frequency waves and are not known to damage DNA or cells directly2. Mobile phones emit microwaves, which are a form of ionizing radiation. This type of radiation is more energetic than radio waves and has the potential to damage DNA and cells3.
Most of the concern around mobile phone radiation has been focused on brain tumors. Studies to date have been inconclusive with some suggesting an increased risk and others showing no increased risk4,5,6,7 . A large scale international study is currently underway (the INTERPHONE study) which should help to clarify the situation8. In the meantime, it is advisable to take some simple steps to reduce your exposure to mobile phone radiation:
-Use hands-free devices such as earphones or Bluetooth headsets instead of holding the phone to your head
-Send text messages instead of making calls whenever possible
-Avoid using your phone in areas with poor reception as this can result in the phone emitting higher levels of radiation in order to establish a connection
-Avoid making calls when the signal is weak as this also results in increased emissions
-Avoid using your phone when it is connected to a high speed internet connection (3G or 4G) as data transfer rates are higher at these times and can result in increased emissions
What are the international guidelines on mobile phone use?
There are no definitive international guidelines on mobile phone use and cancer risk. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B). This is based on limited evidence from human studies, as well as “read across” from studies on exposure to other forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as power lines and microwave ovens.
How have mobile phone companies responded to the cancer risk?
In recent years, there has been growing concern over the potential health risks posed by mobile phones and other wireless devices. Some studies have suggested that long-term exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation may be linked to an increased risk of cancer, although the evidence for this is not yet conclusive.
In response to these concerns, many mobile phone companies have taken steps to reduce consumers’ exposure to RF radiation. For example, some companies have reduced the maximum power output of their phones, and others have introduced “hands-free” devices that allow users to keep the phone away from their head.
It is still unclear whether mobile phones pose a significant health risk, but companies are taking increasingly cautious steps in response to consumer concerns.
What other factors might be causing an increase in cancer rates?
There are a number of other possible explanations for the increase in cancer rates that have been observed in recent years. One is that people are living longer, and so are more likely to develop cancer. Another is that cancer screening tests are becoming more sensitive, and so are able to detect more cases of cancer. It is also possible that environmental factors, such as exposure to pollutants, are playing a role.
What does the future hold for mobile phone use and cancer risk?
At this time, there are no clear conclusions about the possible risks from exposure to radiofrequency energy from cellphones. More research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.
Some health and government organizations have made recommendations about reducing exposure to radiofrequency energy from cellphones. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set safety standards for cellphone use. To learn more, visit the FCC’s website on cellphone safety (https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/safe-use-cell- phones).
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCI scientists are conducting studies on mobile phone use and cancer risk as part of the largest ever study of cancer in humans, called the Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet#q3).
The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is part of NIH. ORWH scientists are working with NCI researchers and others to study mobile phone use by women and men and its possible effects on fertility, pregnancy, and other health outcomes (https://orwh.od.nih.gov/about/mobile-phone-research).
How can I stay informed about mobile phone safety?
There are a number of ways you can stay informed about mobile phone safety. International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) provide guidelines on mobile phone use. You can also find helpful tips on the FCC’s website.
Where can I get more information on mobile phone safety?
There are many organizations that provide information on mobile phone safety, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). IARC is part of the World Health Organization and classifies mobile phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on limited evidence from human studies. WHO has published several fact sheets on mobile phone safety, which you can find here:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States also provide resources on mobile phone safety, including tips on how to reduce your exposure to radiofrequency (RF) energy from your phone.
There are also a number of independent organizations that provide information on mobile phone safety, including the Environmental Working Group and Consumers Union.