Does Cell Phone Radiation Cause Cancer?

Does Cell Phone Radiation Cause Cancer?
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Do mobile phones cause brain tumors? Whenever a trillion-dollar industry is involved—whether it’s Big Food, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, or Big Telecom—there’s so much money that the science can get manipulated.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When it comes to the potential human health effects of cell phone use, sure, if you text excessively, you might end up with a crick in your neck, or even a broken neck for you or someone you hit, if you do it while driving. On the other hand, think of the countless lives that have been saved on the road, because people are now able to so quickly phone in emergencies.

But, what about cancer? Since the turn of the century, there’ve been studies suggesting up to a doubling of brain tumor risk with long-term cell phone use on the side of your head where you use it to talk. That’s important, since the radiation only really penetrates a few inches into your head. Looking from the back of someone’s head or from the top, you can see why you might develop cancer on the one side of your head, over the other.

Since it’s such a local effect, you can see why there are recommendations for using like the speaker function or using a hands-free headset, which can reduce brain exposure by a factor of 100 or more, and this includes Bluetooth headsets. This may be particularly important in children, who have thinner skulls.

Yeah, but cell phone radiation isn’t like nuclear radiation; it doesn’t damage DNA directly, like gamma rays from an atomic bomb or something. Ah, but it does appear to be able to damage DNA indirectly by generating free radicals. Out of 100 studies that looked at that, 93 confirmed these oxidative effects of the kind of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation that comes out of cell phones. Okay, but does that oxidative stress translate out into DNA damage? Most studies found it did, finding signs of genotoxicity—damage to our genes, our DNA, our chromosomes. Yeah, but a lot of those studies were in petri dishes or lab animals. I’m less interested in whether Mickey or Minnie are at risk; what about brain tumors in people?

Yes, some population studies found increased cancer risk; other studies did not. Hmm, I wonder if the source of funding of those studies had anything to do with it. Some of the studies were funded by cell phone companies. Researchers suspected that studies would be less likely to show an effect if they were funded by the telecommunications industry, which has the obvious vested interest in portraying the use of cell phones as safe.

So, they ran the numbers and surprise, surprise, found that the studies funded exclusively by industry were indeed substantially less likely to report significant effects. Most of the independently funded studies showed an effect; most of the industry-funded studies did not—in fact, had about ten times lower odds of finding an adverse effect from cell phone use.

That’s even worse than the drug industry! Studies sponsored by Big Pharma about their own products only had about four times the odds of favoring the drug, compared to independent researchers, though Big Tobacco still reigns supreme when it comes to Big Bias.

Why do research articles on the health effects of secondhand smoke reach different conclusions? Well, turns out studies funded by the tobacco industry had a whopping 88 times the odds of concluding it was not harmful; so, ten or so times for telecom puts it more towards the drug industry end of the bias spectrum.

There’s conflicts of interest on both sides of the debate, though—if not financial, then at least intellectual, where it’s human nature to be biased towards evidence that supports your personal position. And so, you’ll see flimsy science, like this, published where there appears to be a “disturbingly” straight line between the states with the most brain tumors, and the states with the most cell phone subscriptions. But, come on, one can think of lots of reasons why states like New York and Texas might have more brain tumors and cell phones than the Dakotas, that have nothing to do with cell phone radiation.

Sometimes, you might even see outright fraud, with allegations that academic researchers that authored two of those genotoxicity papers—and this very review—were involved in scientific misconduct, which they deny, pointing out that their lead accuser turned out to be a lawyer working for the telecom industry, and on and on.

Whenever there’s a trillion-dollar industry involved, whether it’s the food industry or the tobacco industry, the drug industry or the telecom industry, there’s so much money involved that the science can get manipulated.

Take the nuclear energy industry. “[D]ecades of…high-level, institutional…cover-up[s]” as to “the health consequences of…Chernobyl,” for example, with the official estimates of resulting health problems a hundred or even a thousand times lower than estimates from independent researchers. Was it just 4,000 who would eventually die from it, or nearly a million people? It depends who you ask, and who happens to be funding whoever you’re asking. That’s why, when it comes to cancer, all eyes turn to the IARC, the official World Health Organization body that independently, and objectively, tries to determine what is and is not carcinogenic. We’ll find out what they concluded about cell phones, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Hopkins, Delwar Hossain, Daniel DeLorenzo, Alexandr Lavreniuk, Sea Poh Lin, Kimmi Studio, Alina Oleynik, and Sumana Chamrunworakiat from The Noun Project.

Image credit: Erik Wilde. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When it comes to the potential human health effects of cell phone use, sure, if you text excessively, you might end up with a crick in your neck, or even a broken neck for you or someone you hit, if you do it while driving. On the other hand, think of the countless lives that have been saved on the road, because people are now able to so quickly phone in emergencies.

But, what about cancer? Since the turn of the century, there’ve been studies suggesting up to a doubling of brain tumor risk with long-term cell phone use on the side of your head where you use it to talk. That’s important, since the radiation only really penetrates a few inches into your head. Looking from the back of someone’s head or from the top, you can see why you might develop cancer on the one side of your head, over the other.

Since it’s such a local effect, you can see why there are recommendations for using like the speaker function or using a hands-free headset, which can reduce brain exposure by a factor of 100 or more, and this includes Bluetooth headsets. This may be particularly important in children, who have thinner skulls.

Yeah, but cell phone radiation isn’t like nuclear radiation; it doesn’t damage DNA directly, like gamma rays from an atomic bomb or something. Ah, but it does appear to be able to damage DNA indirectly by generating free radicals. Out of 100 studies that looked at that, 93 confirmed these oxidative effects of the kind of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation that comes out of cell phones. Okay, but does that oxidative stress translate out into DNA damage? Most studies found it did, finding signs of genotoxicity—damage to our genes, our DNA, our chromosomes. Yeah, but a lot of those studies were in petri dishes or lab animals. I’m less interested in whether Mickey or Minnie are at risk; what about brain tumors in people?

Yes, some population studies found increased cancer risk; other studies did not. Hmm, I wonder if the source of funding of those studies had anything to do with it. Some of the studies were funded by cell phone companies. Researchers suspected that studies would be less likely to show an effect if they were funded by the telecommunications industry, which has the obvious vested interest in portraying the use of cell phones as safe.

So, they ran the numbers and surprise, surprise, found that the studies funded exclusively by industry were indeed substantially less likely to report significant effects. Most of the independently funded studies showed an effect; most of the industry-funded studies did not—in fact, had about ten times lower odds of finding an adverse effect from cell phone use.

That’s even worse than the drug industry! Studies sponsored by Big Pharma about their own products only had about four times the odds of favoring the drug, compared to independent researchers, though Big Tobacco still reigns supreme when it comes to Big Bias.

Why do research articles on the health effects of secondhand smoke reach different conclusions? Well, turns out studies funded by the tobacco industry had a whopping 88 times the odds of concluding it was not harmful; so, ten or so times for telecom puts it more towards the drug industry end of the bias spectrum.

There’s conflicts of interest on both sides of the debate, though—if not financial, then at least intellectual, where it’s human nature to be biased towards evidence that supports your personal position. And so, you’ll see flimsy science, like this, published where there appears to be a “disturbingly” straight line between the states with the most brain tumors, and the states with the most cell phone subscriptions. But, come on, one can think of lots of reasons why states like New York and Texas might have more brain tumors and cell phones than the Dakotas, that have nothing to do with cell phone radiation.

Sometimes, you might even see outright fraud, with allegations that academic researchers that authored two of those genotoxicity papers—and this very review—were involved in scientific misconduct, which they deny, pointing out that their lead accuser turned out to be a lawyer working for the telecom industry, and on and on.

Whenever there’s a trillion-dollar industry involved, whether it’s the food industry or the tobacco industry, the drug industry or the telecom industry, there’s so much money involved that the science can get manipulated.

Take the nuclear energy industry. “[D]ecades of…high-level, institutional…cover-up[s]” as to “the health consequences of…Chernobyl,” for example, with the official estimates of resulting health problems a hundred or even a thousand times lower than estimates from independent researchers. Was it just 4,000 who would eventually die from it, or nearly a million people? It depends who you ask, and who happens to be funding whoever you’re asking. That’s why, when it comes to cancer, all eyes turn to the IARC, the official World Health Organization body that independently, and objectively, tries to determine what is and is not carcinogenic. We’ll find out what they concluded about cell phones, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Hopkins, Delwar Hossain, Daniel DeLorenzo, Alexandr Lavreniuk, Sea Poh Lin, Kimmi Studio, Alina Oleynik, and Sumana Chamrunworakiat from The Noun Project.

Image credit: Erik Wilde. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

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