What is the Connection Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors?

There have been several studies conducted to determine if there is a connection between cell phones and brain tumors. These were primarily inspired by concern in both the medical community and among the public about the effect of the radio frequency (RF) waves used in cell phones. Though there has been little evidence found that cell phone use causes brain tumors, and it has been determined that non-ionizing RF waves should not pose a brain tumor risk, researchers have emphasized that further studies need to be done before a conclusive result can be reached.

RF waves are a primary factor in the controversy about cell phones and brain tumors. These waves are emitted from the antenna of the phone where they travel to communicate with the nearest cell tower. Their energy spectrum is between the strength of microwaves and FM radios. RF waves emit a form of non-ionizing radiation, which means they cannot harm DNA, and thus cause cancer. Cancer-causing rays come from sources with more intense radiation, such as x-rays, ultraviolet light, and gamma rays.


Out of over 30 studies conducted, heavy cell phone users have not been proven to have more brain tumors than lighter users. The only anomaly is that a group of researchers in Sweden have determined that using a cell phone for several years can cause the growth of tumors in the side of the head. These results have been questioned by the larger medical community, as they do not mirror the incidences of brain tumors among Swedish cell phone users.

One of the largest studies, called INTERPHONE, was conducted across 13 countries. It studied the cell phone use of over 5,000 participants, some with brain tumors and others without. The amount of cell phone usage and the number of years of usage was not proven to have an effect on the growth of tumors.

While there has not been a conclusive connection found between cell phones and brain tumors, researchers emphasize that there are several factors which limit the effectiveness of previous studies. Cell phones have not been in circulation long enough to allow for a truly effective study of long-term use. It can take several years for a tumor to develop after exposure to the cause.

The population using cell phones has also changed: though many children use them, the studies have focused solely on adults. While there is no solid evidence that starting to use a cell phone at a young age is more risky, children have thinner skulls, and researchers believe this could intensify the effect of rays on the brain. Another problem is the lack of consistency among the phones used in the studies. Cell phone models change constantly, making it impossible to draw conclusions among studies conducted in various years.

Though previously conducted studies are inconclusive, the actual size of the waves causes many researchers to believe that it is not possible to get cancer from a cell phone. Still, no proof has yet found that there is no connection between cell phones and brain tumors. Researchers will continue to conduct studies as data becomes available over longer periods of time.



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