Brain Tumors and Mobile Telephones

Written by Dr Harold Gunatillake- Health writer

Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, and their constant usage close to your ear has raised suspicion that the increasing brain tumors, such as gliomas meningiomas especially among youth and adolescence could be linked to such non-ionic radiation.

The scare of acquiring brain tumors and its link with the use of mobile cell phones has been dispelled by some recent studies.

A EUROPEAN study involving nearly 1000 participants has found no link between mobile phone use and brain tumors among children and adolescents, a group that may be particularly sensitive to phone emissions.

A study, published in the Journal of the national Cancer Institute revealed the concerns of younger individuals brains being more vulnerable to adverse health effects of constantly using cell phones and after effects of exposure to radiation.

Research has revealed that there is no increase in brain tumors among children in the US and many parts of Europe who constantly are using mobile phones and from the resulting emissions. It is also observed that most youths start to use mobile phones quite young do absorb twice the amount of cellphone energy more than adults.

The Interphone Study
A 13-country study of adults, released last year, suggested that there was no increased brain-cancer risk for mobile phone users compared with non-users. However, the heaviest users appeared to have a slightly increased risk of a certain type of brain cancer.

Gliomas linked to cell phones
There was some indication that an increase numbers in glioma tumors in the brain among heavy users of cell phones. However, this relationship is disputed, and the interphone researchers considered this finding inconclusive.

There are still three main reasons why people are concerned that constant use of cell phones may cause certain types of cancers.

1) The number of cell phone uses world- wide has increased. And the incidence of brain cancer tumors has also increased.

2) Over time, the numbers of cell phone calls per day, the length of each call, and the duration of uses of cell phones have increased and further the technology also has undergone substantial changes.

3) These cell phones emit radio-frequency energy which is a form of non-ionizing radiation, and when held against the body tissues absorb energy. Potential health effects of radiofrequency exposure from cell phones, radar, satellite stations, microwave ovens, and other sources have been studied for many years.

Acoustic neuroma
Acoustic neuromas originate in the middle ear region from the main nerve that runs close with the ear.
A pooled analysis of data from Interphone investigators from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom did not find relationships between the risk of acoustic neuroma and the duration of cell phone use, cumulative hours of use, or number of calls; however, the risk of a tumor on the same side of the head as the reported phone use was higher among persons who had used a cell phone for 10 years or more. A Swedish case-control study reported similar findings, but a Danish case-control study showed no increased risk in long-term (10 years or more) cell phone users compared with short-term users, and no increase in the incidence of tumors on the side of the head where the phone was usually held. Patients with a tumor on one side of their head might be more likely to report phone use on that side.

Radiofrequency energy is a form of electromagnetic radiation. There are two types: ionizing (x-rays, radon, cosmic rays) and non-ionizing (radio-frequency, extremely low frequency or power frequency). Ionizing radiation from x-rays can cause cancer. Mobile phones emit non-ionizing radiation, which has enough energy to cause atoms in a molecule to vibrate, but not enough to remove electrons. Sound waves and visible light waves are other examples of non- ionizing radiation. So far, there is no evidence that non-ionizing radiation emitted from cell phones have caused cancer risk.

More details
When you call somebody from a cell phone, the antenna sends signals to the nearest base station antenna. The base station, then call through a switching center to transfer the call to the receiver.

The radiofrequency energy affects your body in many ways:

The number and duration of calls
The amount of cell phone traffic at a given time
The distance from the nearest base station
The quality of the cellular transmission
The size of the handset
For older phones, how far the antenna is extended
Whether or not a hands-free device is used

There are beneficial effects from radiofrequency energy, such as when used for heating, a form of this is used by microwave ovens. High doses of this energy could cause localized tissue heating. Low dosage equipment is used by health personal and physiotherapists to relieve chronic recurrent lower backaches and degenerative cervical (neck) problems,
such as cervical spondylitis. The level of radiofrequency energy used in cell phones is so minimal that it cannot cause sufficient het to damage human tissues.

It has been observed that there had been no adverse effects on U.S. Navy electronics technicians or fire control technicians working in electromagnetic pulse test program, cellular phone manufacturing workers, or Navy personnel with a high probability of exposure to radar.

It has been shown that radiofrequency energy does not appear to result in damage to DNA. To date, studies of rodents exposed to radiofrequency radiation provide no clear or consistent evidence that neither this type of radiation causes cancer, nor that it enhances the carcinogenicity of known chemical carcinogens.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the World Health Organization, has recently classified radiofrequency fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence from human studies, limited evidence from studies of radiofrequency and carcinogenicity in rodents, and weak mechanistic evidence (from studies of geno-toxicity, effects on immune function, gene and protein expression, cell signaling, oxidative stress, and apoptosis, along with studies of the possible effects of radiofrequency energy on the blood-brain barrier).

The American Cancer Society states that most studies to date have not found an association between cell phone use and development of tumors. However, results from these studies have been limited by the length of follow-up, changing patterns of cell phone usage and technology, lack of study of children, and methods for measuring cell phone use. Possible cancer risks of cell phone exposure should continue to be evaluated using high-quality methodological approaches, particularly in relation to use in childhood and adolescence and longer-term use.

(Some reference: National Cancer Institute fact sheet- reviewed 06/23/2011)

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