Are brain tumours related to excess cell phone use?

This has been the subject of a great deal of debate in recent years. Cell phones give off radiofrequency (RF) rays, a form of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum between FM radio waves and those used in microwave ovens, radar, and satellite stations., Till now it has not been proved that RF waves can cause brain tumors and at the same time it remains to be proved that RF waves are absolutely safe. It is ionizing radiation that has been proved to cause cancer by damaging the DNA inside cells. Cell phones do not give off ionizing radiation.

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation as Group 2B – possibly carcinogenic. That means that there “could be some risk” of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones needs to be conducted.

Some studies pertaining to mobile phone RF rays have made few observations

  • Studies to date provide no indication that environmental exposure to RF fields, such as from base stations, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease.
  • Researchers have made some inconclusive studies that exposure to very high signal cell phone radiation led to a slightly increased risk of malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart in male rats.
  • Tumors are more likely to occur on the side of the head that the cell handset is used.
  • One hour of cell phone use per day may increase tumor risk after ten years or more. Also, it’s possible that children who are increasingly using cell phones are at higher risk (4-5x) as the skull thickness is less thus allowing more radiation penetration.
  • Cell phone technology also continues to change, and it’s not clear how this might affect any risk.
  • 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.

However, all these need to be proved with further research and studies.

So as of now recommendations to reduce such risks can be by

  1. Using an earpiece such that the handset is away from the head. Never keep cell phones under your pillows. Also as far as possible keep cell phones in handbags rather than in pants or shirt pockets.
  2. Keep the mobile phone away from you when dialing to connect. Phones use more radiation during connection time
  3.  Avoid continuous talking for more than 15- 20 minutes
  4. Use more use of texting. Keep a cell phone away from the body while pressing ‘send’
  5.  Do not use cellphones in a car without an external antenna.
  6.  When moving at high speeds cell phones try to connect with different network antennas thus increasing the radiation exposure. So avoid using in moving vehicles, lifts, during jogging, etc
  7.  People who use phones continuously like receptionists, call center workers, etc are advised to use more of land phones
  8. Make sure that the Specific absorption rate (SAR) of our mobiles are less than 1.6 units. Specific absorption rate (SAR) is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by the human body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field. It’s measured as watts per kilogram (W/kg)
  9.  Bluetooth devices give off much lesser RF radiation than cell phones but since they are in close contact with the body the area of radiation dissipated is much less thus increasing radiation absorption per kg body weight. Thus its safety is questionable and hence should be used with caution…

Radiofrequency rays emitted from mobile phones have not been proved to cause brain tumors nor have they been proved to be absolutely safe. IARC hence recommends mobile phones to be used judiciously.

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