Cell phones and cancer: where are we now?

The possible link between cell phones and cancer is controversial. Many years of studies on cell phones and cancer have yielded conflicting results. Currently, there is no consensus on the degree of cancer risk posed by cell phone use. The main concern with cell phones and cancer appears to be the development of brain tumors associated with cell phone use. Some research suggests a slight increase in the rate of brain tumors since the 1970s, but cell phones weren’t used in the 1970s. Rather, these subtle increases are related to other factors, such as increased access to healthcare medical and improved diagnostic imaging.

Studies still contradictory sometimes showing a link, sometimes no link

– In a study that followed more than 420,000 cellphone users over a 20-year period, researchers found no evidence of a link between cellphones and brain tumours.

– Another study linked cell phones to salivary gland cancer. However, only a small number of study participants had malignancies.

– Another study suggested a possible increased risk of glioma, a specific type of brain tumor, for heavier cellphone users, but no increased risk of brain tumors in general.

After evaluating several studies on the possibility of a link between cell phones and glioma and a non-cancerous brain tumor known as acoustic neuroma, members of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, agreed that there is little evidence that cell phone radiation is a carcinogen. As a result, the group classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Cancer and cell phones: too little time has elapsed to have enough hindsight

However, a series of recent studies cannot say it all. Many years often pass between the use of a new carcinogen and the observation of an increase in cancer rates, as in the case of tobacco and lung cancer. At this point, it is possible that too little time has passed to detect an increase in cancer rates directly attributable to cell phone use.

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Mobile phones and cancer: in the meantime, the precautionary principle is essential

For now, no one knows if cell phones are capable of causing cancer. Although long-term studies are ongoing, there is currently no definitive evidence that cell phone use increases the risk of cancer.

If you are concerned about the possible link between cell phones and cancer, consider limiting your use of cell phones, or use a speakerphone or hands-free device that places the cell phone antenna, which is usually in the phone itself, away from your head.


Meena JK, et al. Mobile phone use and possible cancer risk: Current perspectives in India. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2016;20:5.

Cell phones and cancer risk. National Cancer Institute.

Yang M, et al. Mobile phone use and glioma risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS One. 2017;12:e0175136.

Schuz J, et al. Cellular telephone use and cancer risk: Update of a national Danish cohort. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2006;98:1707.

Mishra SK, et al. Effect of cell phone radiation on orofacial structures: A systematic review. 2017;11:zeo1.

Michaud D, et al. Risk factors for brain tumours.

Electromagnetic fields and public health: Mobile phones. World Health Organization.


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