Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

Tips to decrease cell phone radiation exposure
Friday, March 9, 2018 - 2:00pm

When you go to sleep, do you set the alarm on your cell phone before placing it on your nightstand within arm’s reach?

If so, you may want to think twice next time.

Kirsten Moysich, PhD, MS, Distinguished Professor of Oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, says because cell phones emit a low-frequency radiation, people should be cautious.

“It’s non-ionizing radiation that you expose your body tissue to. If you can use a headphone device, so the device is not right next to your brain, why not use that? We call that a precautionary principle” says Dr. Moysich.

Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, which is a form of non-ionizing radiation, according to the National Cancer Institute. The body tissue closest to the antenna can absorb this energy. That’s why there have been so many studies about whether cell phones increase someone’s risk for malignant (cancerous) or benign brain tumors.

“Cell phone use has increased dramatically since the early 90’s,” says Dr. Moysich. “But the incidence of brain cancer has not increased in the U.S.”

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However, she still urges people to be cautious.

Here are some practical tips you can apply at home:

  • Use headphones;  a hands-free device places more distance between your brain tissue and the phone.
  • Put your phone farther away from you than the nightstand when you sleep.
  • Don’t stick cell phones in sports bras or pant pockets.
  • Use the phone for shorter conversations or use the speaker phone for longer talks.

“There is no hard evidence to support this, it’s just being careful, like wearing a seatbelt. This is limiting low-frequency radiation exposure. If you don’t need to be exposed to it; don’t be,” says Dr. Moysich.

What the Science Tells Us

Numerous epidemiologic studies have investigated whether cell phone emissions increase someone’s risk of cancer.  The results have been inconclusive. The National Cancer Institute says “A limited number of studies have shown some evidence of statistical association of cell phone use and brain tumor risks, but most studies have found no association.” The federal agency says there are discrepancies because of recall bias, inaccurate reporting, morbidity and mortality, changing technology and the way people use cell phones.

One thing researchers do agree on is that there is currently no evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases a person’s cancer risk. Research shows that it does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer.