Does Science Really Believe That Mobile Phones Cause Cancer?

As mobile phones continue to make modern communications easier, there are concerns that they have the potential of causing certain types of cancer. It is true to say that they emit a form of non-ionizing radiation classified under radio-frequency energy. It is also true that tissues that are closest to the mobile phone antennas are capable of absorbing this energy. However, the correlation between this energy and the growth of cancer cells is still not clear.


Cellphone Usage Statistics

The number of mobile phone users continues to increase rapidly day by day. According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, there are over 400 million cell phone subscribers in the United States. The International Telecommunications Union estimated the global numbers of cellphone subscribers to be over 5 billion.


Radio-frequency Energy and how it affects the Body

As a form of electromagnetic radiation, radio-frequency energy can either be non-ionizing or ionizing. The non-ionizing type has an extremely lower frequency than the ionizing type, which includes cosmic rays and x-rays. The frequency of radio-frequency energy ranges from 30 kHz to 300GHz. This same frequency supports radio transmissions, televisions and cell phones.

 Radio Frequency

SAR (an abbreviation for Specific Absorption Rate) is the unit for estimating the dose of absorbed electromagnetic energy. There's a high likelihood of developing cancer when exposed to ionizing radiation such as x-rays. Though several studies suggest that non-ionizing radiation has potential health effects, none of them provides sufficient evidence that the radiation increases cancer risk. Devices such as cell phones and microwaves emit this type of radiation.


Why Most Research Findings on the Mobile Phone Use and Cancer Risk are Inconsistent

Radio-frequency energy proves to be effective in heating as seen in microwaves, which people use to heat food. This energy can also cause heating on the palm of your hand or area where your cell phone is lying. Note that this is the only recognized biological effect of the exposure to radio-frequency energy.  Here are five reasons why most findings on cell phone use and cancer risk are always inconsistent.

 cell phone cancer

 Inaccurate Reporting

It may be difficult to get people to mention the exact number of times they use their phones. Some will give the wrong answers and make the entire research inaccurate. The research will continue being inconsistent as long as the study participants are giving incorrect responses.

 Recall Bias

Recall bias may occur when the researchers used questionnaires to collect data from the study participants. The participants, who likely have brain tumors, may remember their cellphone usage habits differently than those without the tumor. In most cases, they tend to recall their mobile phone use on the exact side of the brain where the tumor developed when responding to the questionnaires.

 Mortality and Morbidity among the Study Participants

Cancer patients or people with brain tumors may have a shorter lifespan. Getting them to participate in studies that try to identify cell phone use and cancer risk can be challenging. When they pass on, it can also be difficult to get accurate responses from their next of kin.

 Evolving Technology

As researchers find the link between radio-frequency energy and cancer risk, cellphone manufacturers are continuously releasing devices with lower radio-frequency emissions. For example, texting is replacing phone calls thus reducing the likelihood of people bringing phones close to their heads. For the studies to be consistent, researchers need to consider the changing technology and methods with respect to cellphone use.

 Participation Bias

Participation bias exists when the study participants rarely use cell phones or don't suffer from any type of cancer. Including these participants in a study will make it flawed and biased. Researchers need to enroll the right people in their studies to avoid such mistakes.


Summing Up

People need to treat the information they come across about cellphones and cancer risks with caution. They shouldn't jump into conclusions that their bodies are at risk when exposed to non-ionizing radiation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that mobile phones are only ideal for short conversations or in absence of landlines. The FDA also recommends people to use hands-free kits and hands-free technology (such as wired headsets) to minimize the exposure to radio-frequency energy.


You can find information about the SAR of your cellphone from the FCC website. Be sure to type your phone's FCC ID number, which comes in the phone's package, in the FCC ID search form. The SAR is relative to the amount of radiation the head of a cellphone user absorbs.