Image above from Yale Scientific Magazine
For years we’ve contemplated over cell phones causing cancer, specifically brain cancer. Each year a study debunks this theory, but months later a report surfaces that reignites the debate. And no matter how many studies disprove a cancer link, we worry because we are 24/7 glued to our phones, or the phones are glued to us. Many of us don’t even own a landline anymore as we find it financially obtuse to pay monthly fees for a wall jack we don’t use. We take our phones with us to school, work, the dinner table, and even the toilet. If it wasn’t for the lack of water proofing, many of us would take our phones with us into the shower. We are geographically closer to our phones than own children. Something’s got to bite us in the butt……
Now this week we learn that a Superior Court Judge in California has ordered the state to release papers discussing the risk of long term cell phone use. According to sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com, “The documents were written by the state’s Environmental Health Investigations branch and are believed to contain cellphone radiation warnings and recommendations for public use. But the state refused to hand them over when requested by a director at University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.” Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D in turn sued the state saying this data should be public record and won. He’s been researching the subject and cited an increased brain cancer risk with cell phone use over 10 years.
What do cell phones emit?
Cell phones emit radio waves. These are a form of non-ionizing radiation that provides an energy source through radio frequency. Ionizing radiation is emitted by xrays, cosmic rays, and radon, and have been linked to cancer as it s a high frequency, high energy form of electromagnetic radiation. Non-ionizing radiation include radio waves, microwaves, visible light, UV light, infrared, and lasers. Although UV radiation may cause skin cancer, the other sources are deemed less dangerous than their ionizing radiation counterparts.
Can cell phone use cause cancer?
One of the more recent studies unveiled in May of 2016 reported cell phone radiation caused brain tumors in mice. Rats exposed to the radiofrequency radiation for 7-9 hours a day, seven days a week, were more prone to develop the malignant gliomas as well has tumors in the heart. This study was not intended to be translated to human risk, but of course it made headlines and scared us silly.
Prior to this, in 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cell phone use and other radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
However, multiple studies have been done, as descriptively outlined by the National Cancer Institute, and are assuring us that there is no imminent danger by our daily use of cell phones. The NCI also provides recommendations from the CDC, FDA, and FCC stating not enough evidence exists to establish a link between cell phones and cancer.
Can cell phone radiation injure our body’s cells?
Although arguments continue over cell phone radiation causing cancer, it has been proven that heat is given off. Many people complain their ear gets hot after lengthy cell phone use and studies have yet to determine if cell phone heat can cause oncogenic changes in cells. They’ve studied if the radiation affects metabolic activity, and a team led by Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found visible brain activity changes on the side the cell phone was being used. They recommended after this study keeping the cell phone away from the body and using a lower radiation emitting phone.
So now what?
We wait and see. My suggestion is to not overdo it with our phones. Use the speaker setting when practical so as to not consistently hug the phone to your skull. Take breaks in between lengthy calls. Text when appropriate to minimize exposure as well.
Or do what I do when I talk to my mother, hold the phone 3 feet away from my head. I can still hear her…..just fine……
Medical Spanish made easy
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician