Smartphones have become a part of our everyday lives and it slowly starts to look like they have also become part of our bodies. We wake up with them as they are now a substitute for the traditional bedside alarm clocks, and instead of reading an actual printed newspaper while having our breakfast, or run to the mailbox in our robes and slippers to get the mail, we just go online and do it all together without leaving the table or interrupt our meal. Sometimes, the first thing we do in the morning is taking our phones and check our social network profiles without even lifting our heads from the pillow.
Cell phones have been involved so much in our lives that nomophobia, the fear of being without your cell phone, is a real ailment. Even if you are not considered as nomophobic, your cell phone is always at a distance of an arm’s reach. The average person checks their cell phone an average of 46 to 110 times a day. Experts believe that collectively, Americans check their phones 8 billion times a day.
Considering all of this, a very reasonable question arises: is this behavior safe or normal? Moreover, do cell phones cause cancer? The truth is, we still can’t know for sure, but for safety’s sake, it would be best to practice the precautionary principle. This doesn’t mean that you should completely throw it out of usage, just be selective and use it when you need it most.
According to recent preliminary findings from a well-designed U.S. National Toxicology Program study, it is suggested that cell phones may increase the risk of certain brain tumors and another rare type of tumor. This $25million worth of study determined that exposure to very high signal cell phone radiation led to a slightly increased risk of malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas (tumors that form in the nerve sheath) of the heart in male rats.
This finding is considered by the epidemiologist Devra Davis, MD, president of Environmental Health Trust as game-changing and a wake-up call.
In an article written for Oxford University Press, she notes that the new U.S. government study “is hardly a shot in the dark or a one-off event. With this largest best-conducted animal study, we now have three different studies within the past six years where animals develop some of the same cancers from cell phone radiation as people.”
Other eminent people agree with the recent findings, like Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who calls the study “good science”, further stating that:
“The NTP report linking radiofrequency radiation (RFR) to two types of cancer marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk. The findings are unexpected; we wouldn’t reasonably expect non-ionizing radiation to cause these tumors. This is a striking example of why serious study is so important in evaluating cancer risk. It’s interesting to note that early studies on the link between lung cancer and smoking had similar resistance, since theoretical arguments at the time suggested that there could not be a link.”
A dose-response effect was detected in a recent government study, meaning the higher the dose, the higher the risk. The results from this finding backs-up previous research suggestion that claims that cell phone radiation could increase the risk of gliomas. Acoustic neuromas have also been linked to cell phone use.
Cell phone radiation was listed as a 2B carcinogen in 2011 by the World Health Organization. This means that the radiation could be carcinogenic to humans.
What is worrying is that ever since the 1990s’ when cell phone usage was widely present, certain threats that may not be surfacing in humans yet could be missed by the epidemiological studies that aimed at long-term risks from cell phone exposure.
Studies aiming at cell phone radiation exposure and tumors and other health problems show mixed results, but we have seen concerning data, such as:
- A Swedish study showed higher risk for tumors on the side of the head where the cell phone was held, particularly with 10 or more years of use.
- People who started using cell phones from teenage years have four to five times higher chance of being diagnosed with brain cancer.
- Sperm die three times faster and experience triple the damage to mitochondrial DNA compared to sperm from men who are not exposed to cell phone radiation.
The Environmental Health trust warns that those studies that do not show an increased risk of tumors are shorter studies of five or seven years, because brain tumors take up to 10 years to be developed.
People have only been heavily using cell phones since the ’90s, so there’s still no definitive proof that they do (not) cause cancer. It took decades to prove that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. We’re not saying that you should completely give up on using your cell phone, but rather limit the usage, and keep it away from the body whenever possible. Don’t put it near you when you sleep, put it in airplane mode when you’re driving or moving fast, and avoid keeping it in your pocket or in your bra.