The debate about the link between cell phones and cancer, or their ability to cause or contribute to cancer is ongoing. Unfortunately, we can’t provide a black-and-white, yes or no answer because they scientific community has made up their minds at large. What we can say is that the most recent evidence – some of which comes out of a study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) – indicates that direct contact between humans and their cell phones does have a biological effect. Whether or not that effect will cause or catalyze the formation of cancer is not 100% clear.
We recommend reading a recent article published in Scientific American for a more detailed account of the NTPs research. You can also consult additional resources that explain the cell phone/cancer debate, as well as supporting and opposing research findings, clearly and concisely. Two good ones are:
- The National Cancer Institute’s page on Cell Phone and Cancer Risk
- The Mayo Clinic’s page on Cell Phones and Cancer: What’s the Risk?
NOTE: While cell phones get the brunt of the attention, all wireless gadgets – ranging from laptops to tablets and iPods create intensified RF radiation exposure for their users.
Rats get cancer from prolonged exposure to RF radiation
The NTPs study was comprehensive and very thorough. More than 3,000 rodents were used (both rats and mice, and both sexes) and the studies took place consistently over the course of two full years. This is similar to another comprehensive study done in Italy, where more than 2500 rats and mice were tested with similar findings. Together, these are some of the most comprehensive studies of this type to-date.
The concern for the scientists and experts involved in reviewing the study’s findings are that:
- Rats do get cancer when exposed to prolonged exposure to RF radiation, most specifically a type of brain tumor called a schwannoma.
- Even prolonged exposure to seemingly “very low” levels of RF still correlated with higher cancer rates
- It’s hard to determine what exactly “too much” exposure is when it comes to humans.
And, in addition to the brain tumors, the Scientific American article points out:
“The strongest finding connected RF with heart schwannomas in male rats, but the researchers also reported elevated rates of lymphoma as well as cancers affecting the prostate, skin, lung, liver and brain in the exposed animals. Rates for those cancers increased as the doses got higher but the evidence linking them with cell phone radiation specifically was weak by comparison, and the researchers could not rule out that they might have increased for reasons other than RF exposure.”
How can a cell phone cause cancer?
Cell phones rely on a particular type of radiation, called radio-frequency (RF) radiation, to do their job. This energy is actually emitted by the cellular towers that receive and transmit audio and digital messages to your phone. So, in fact, your cell phone is more like a conduit or direct recipient of RF radiation than it is an emitter. Conversely, whether you have a cell phone or not, 20th and 21st century models of communication have long relied on RF emissions, so virtually every human on the planet experiences some level of RF radiation exposure – whether they want to or not.
That being said, it’s important to distinguish between RF radiation and ionizing radiation. Radio-frequency radiation exposes living tissue to heat. This heat-version of radiation excites the affected tissue and the theory is that consistent and/or long-term exposure to it will change the biology of the tissue’s cells. The ramifications of this could be – and may be – cancer.
That is very different than ionizing radiation, which is extremely (and inarguably) harmful to living creatures of all kinds, mainly because it has an immediate and detrimental effect on the cell’s DNA. In some cases, the immediate damage may be immediately visible as well in the form of burns and radiation illness. In other cases, the damage is immediate but the physical side effects of that damage isn’t realized or observable until later down the road.
Radiation is an earthly and earthling phenomenon
It’s important to mention that humans have been exposed to radiation since the beginning of time, well-prior to any industrial or technological innovations. Outer space is chock full of radiation – and we live in outer space – so it’s a part of natural life. However, it’s in the more full, concentrated and consistent doses that things become a problem.
Read, 7 Sources of Everyday Radiation, to learn more about your personal exposure and tips for reducing, blocking or shielding your exposure to everyday radiation.
Minimize your risk to cell-phone induced cancer(s)
While it will be a manner of years, or even decades, until we have clear-cut answers to the question about the link between cell phones and other wireless gadgets and cancer, it seems smart to be aware and minimize personal risk factors.
Some of the most simple and clear-cut things you can do to minimize your own risk (shy of boycotting wireless devices altogether) are:
- Turn all wireless gadgets OFF when they’re not in use – particularly at night while you sleep (why have all that RF radiation exposure for nothing?)
- Turn your modem/wireless transmitter OFF when not in use and/or at night while everyone is sleeping.
- Keep wireless gadgets as far from your body as possible using Bluetooth devices or accessories such as laptop lap pads, which keeps your laptop from coming into direct contact with your body – particularly your reproductive organs.
- Use reputable RF radiation shielding products as they become available on the market.
The team at Lancs works tirelessly to create radiation shielding products for individuals, workplaces and environments where radiation is a risk. Take care and protect yourself with good sense and high-quality radiation shielding products.
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