When it comes to causes of cancer, there is much that we don’t know, especially
about factors that may have a minor influence on risk, either increasing it or decreasing
it. A number of issues that are of concern to people but are not likely to be
important causes of cancer are discussed in this section. Keep in mind that it is best
to pay attention to, and as far as possible, eliminate known causes of increased risk
of cancer rather than focusing on something that has not been demonstrated to affect
risk one way or the other and probably is not an important cause of an increased risk
of getting cancer.
Near ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, microwave, and low-frequency radio frequency
(RF) are examples of non-ionizing radiation. RF radiation comes from both
natural sources and from broadcasting radio and television signals, transmitting signals
from cordless telephones, cellular phones, cell phone towers, radar, Wi-Fi and
Bluetooth, microwave ovens, and airport millimeter-wave full-body scanners. RF
radiation does not cause cancer by damaging DNA in cells the way ionizing radiation
does. Although there has been concern that some forms of non-ionizing radiation
might have biological effects that could result in cancer, there is little evidence
that this occurs.
Most animal and laboratory studies have found no evidence of an increased risk
of cancer with exposure to RF radiation. Studies of people who may have been
exposed to RF radiation at their jobs (such as people who work around radar equipment)
have found no clear increase in cancer risk. If RF radiation is absorbed in
large enough amounts by materials containing water, such as food, fluids, and body
tissues, it can produce heat. This is the way that microwave ovens work. Exposure
to high-intensity microwaves could lead to burns and tissue damage, but microwaves
from ovens are contained within the oven, there is no evidence that they pose
a health risk.
The millimeter-wave scanners used in airports for security screening do not use any
high-energy radiation such as x-rays, and the amount of RF radiation used is less
than that from a cell phone. According to the FDA, these scanners have no known
Cell phones are in widespread use throughout the world, and although they are considered
safe, there is still debate about whether they cause brain or other cancers.
Cordless phones operate at about 1/600 the power of cell phones, so they are much
less likely to be a concern in terms of health effects. Among the studies that have
looked at the possible link between cell phones and cancer are case-control studies
in which past cell phone use was compared in patients with brain tumors (cases) to
people without brain tumors (controls). Although the Interphone study published
in 2010 showed a possible link to glioma among the heaviest users, there was no
overall increase in brain tumors, a finding consistent with most other studies. Since
then, Swedish studies found an increased risk of malignant brain tumors among 10
year or longer users and a three-fold increased risk of glioma among 25-year users.
Other studies carried out in Denmark, the U.K., and France generally found no association
between long-term cell phone use and brain tumors, although the French
study did find an increased risk among the heaviest users. It has been argued
that the laws of physics provide evidence that cell phone use cannot cause cancer
because cell phone radiation is just too weak to break chemical bonds; the radiation
is 480,000 times weaker than UV rays.
The American Cancer Society has summarized cell phone studies as follows:
• In most studies, patients with brain tumors do not report more cell phone use
overall than the controls. This finding is true when all brain tumors are
considered as a group, or when specific types of tumors are considered.
• Most studies do not show a “dose-response relationship,” which would be a
tendency for the risk of brain tumors to be higher with increasing cell phone
• Most studies do not show that brain tumors occur more often on the side of
the head, where people hold their cell phones.
• A few studies have found a possible link.
For example, several studies
published by the same research group in Sweden have reported an increased
risk of tumors on the side of the head where the cell phone was held,
particularly with 10 or more years of use. It is hard to know what to make of
these findings because studies by other researchers have not had the same
results, and there is no overall increase in brain tumors in Sweden during the
years that correspond to these reports.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI): “Studies thus far have not shown
a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other
tissues of the head or neck. More research is needed….” According to the FDA,
which regulates the safety of radiation-emitting devices such as cell phones in the
U.S.: “The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between
exposure to radiofrequency from a cell phone and health problems.” All of
this inconclusive data suggests that if there is a risk from cell phone use, it is small.
However, the studies do not include children, and although there is little data for
pregnant women, a recent study suggests that the risk of miscarriage may be tripled
by exposure to cell phone and other non-ionizing radiation.
If you are concerned, use a wired headphone or use the speaker feature to minimize
exposure since the intensity of emissions declines rapidly with distance from the
source. The advice from the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter is,
“One undisputed danger posed by cell phones is using them for any purpose while
driving. The National Safety Council estimates that 20% of crashes (1.1 million a
year) in the U.S. involve cell phones.”
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.