Consumer Tips \ Healthy Skeptic

Can a Cell Phone Give You Brain Cancer?

"It wouldn't surprise me if you're holding up something to your head that you could get some radio waves."

"I try not to sleep with it right by my head and when I'm on the phone I use my speaker."

If you're like me, you can't live without your cell phone. Many of us spend hours a day on them. But could holding the phone to your head all the time be harmful? Some fear that the radiation emitted by cell phones may increase the risk of brain tumors. While the science isn't conclusive, it does give us less reason to worry

A large study in 13 countries, known as Interphone, found that overall, cell phone users had no greater risk of the two most common types of brain tumors, gliomas and meningiomas.

Many other studies also have not turned up a link to brain tumors.

But a few have, and the Interphone study found a slightly higher risk of gliomas among the most frequent phone users.

Researchers suspect this may be a fluke, but they also can't say for sure that cell phones are safe.

So why the continued uncertainty? Studies typically rely on people's memories of their cell phone habits, which can be faulty.

Phone users tend to talk much more today than when older studies were conducted, making their relevance questionable.

Cell phones are still too new to find effects from many decades of use.

And there's been little research in children, whose developing brains may make them more susceptible to any risks from phones.

What we do know is that brain tumor rates have so far not gone up as cell phone use has increased. And lab studies show that the type of radiation from phones--so--called non-ionizing radiation--does not damage DNA or cause cancer in animals.

Many scientists say if the phones do pose any risk, it's likely very small.

If you're concerned, limit your time talking or use a hands-free device. Meanwhile, don't overlook a proven danger from cell phones: talking or texting while driving. Now that's something definitely worth worrying about.

This entry last modified on: March 18, 2013 2:22 PM

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Can cell phone radiation cause brain tumors? Our Healthy Skeptic answers the call.


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