Concerns that cell phones cause brain tumors have not stopped millions of people from enjoying wireless links to friends, family, and business associates. The all-too-familiar chirp of a cell phone shatters the peace at the beach, breaks up conversations, and intrudes just about everywhere. But these disturbances may be the least of our concerns.
People have voiced concern about the dangers of radiofrequency (RF) energy from cell phones. After reviewing the results of multiple studies, though, scientists have not found definite evidence about the harm from cell phones.
One case-control study of 996 adults with a brain tumor found that using a cell phone on one side of the head was associated with an excess risk of having a brain tumor. Despite this, most case studies have found that long-term cellular phone use is not clearly associated with increased risk of a brain tumor.
A large case-control study coordinated by the World Health Organization that included 5,117 patients with brain tumors and matched control patients without brain tumors did not find a clear link between cell phone use and risk of brain cancer. The authors warned that further research should be performed. They especially felt that more studies were needed, as the patients in this study used the cell phones less than people do regularly today.
Playing It Safe
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the health risk small, and given the evidence they have available, has not linked cell phones with any health problems. If you are concerned about the risk of using a cell phone, the FDA recommends the following:
- Hold longer calls on a conventional phone, restricting cell phone use to shorter calls and situations where traditional phones are not available.
- Use speaker mode, a headset, or a hands-free kit to place more distance between your head and the cell phone.
Although current studies do not connect cell phone use to brain cancer, that does not mean this will not change. Cell phone users are getting younger, which means their exposure to RF energy is longer. Future studies will determine if longer-term cell phone use has an effect on the brain or not.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 04/2017 -
- Update Date: 04/28/2015 -