Does the use of cell phones increase the risk of brain cancer? The report of a $30 million study designed to answer that question was published last month in The International Journal of Epidemiology. The report, called Interphone, was based on a series of international studies coordinated by the WHO examining a large number of people exposed to radiation from cell phone use between 1999 and 2004.
On the surface the results appear reassuring. The US FDA’s summary concluded “The study reported little or no risk of brain tumors for most long-term users.”
Cell phones (and cordless phones) emit non-ionizing radiation in radio wave frequencies, believed too weak to break chemical bonds or cause DNA damage. For this reason links between cell phone use and brain tumors have been dismissed by many groups including the American Cancer Society and the US FDA.
Other scientists remain concerned. Earlier studies supporting a link were considered inconclusive because of the short study periods and small numbers of people studied. The large Interphone study was planned to overcome these limitations. So what did it find?
Possibly the most significant finding was a 40% increase in glioma, a type of brain tumor, in participants with the highest level of cell phone use. Tumors were most frequent on the phone side of the head and in the temporal lobe which is closest to the ear. The report did not consider the data conclusive but did call for further investigation.
Critics of the study’s report believe the risk is underestimated and pointed out serious flaws in the study:
• Children and young adults were not studied and are more vulnerable to radiation because their brains are still growing
• People who had died or were very ill from their brain tumor were excluded
• Cordless phone users (exposed to similar radiation) were included in the control group
• Only a few types of brain cancers were included in the study
• Heavy use was defined as 2 hours a month – many people now use their phones 2 hours a day!
• Cancer risk from radiation is cumulative and often delayed 10 to 30 years so even a slight increase now is significant
For a more detailed critique of the Interphone report see
and click on “Risk of Brain Cancer…”.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.