Does Cell Phone Radiation Really Cause Brain Cancer?

It's a common enough worry, but here's what the research says.

Cell phones have totally transformed the way we communicate, work, and, frankly, live. But even though they’ve made so many things so much easier, they’re not always worry-free. Before there were cell phones, no one had text neck, no one got Blackberry thumb, and no one suffered from nomophobia–and we all struggled through a lot less FOMO.

But there are also some more serious concerns about carrying around our pocket-sized computers–and holding them close to our heads. For years, the fear that cell phones might lead to brain tumors keeps resurfacing. It’s a reasonable enough worry: Cell phones do emit radio waves, which are a form of radiation, and exposure to some types of radiation, like X-rays, are known to increase a person’s risk of cancer.

In this video, we explain the existing research on the link between cell phones and brain tumors, as well as what research remains to be done. The results of such studies have so far been conflicting and sometimes controversial. The latest among them is a new report from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), which found that high doses of cell phone radiation can cause tumors in rats–but not in people.

"The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone," John Bucher, PhD, NTP senior scientist, said in a statement. “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience."

For now, there’s no solid evidence that your phone ups your chances of developing a brain tumor. Brain cancer rates have stayed pretty stable in the last decade; if cell phone really did cause brain tumors, you’d expect to see a lot more cancer cases since mobile devices were invented.

Still, if you’re concerned, it can’t hurt to keep your phone farther away from your head more often. Pop in your headphones or turn on speakerphone when you can and chat confidently.

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