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This 2009 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at 23 case-control studies of the risk of both malignant and benign tumors from mobile phone use. When the authors included all 23, they found no increased risk of tumors. When they crunched certain subsets of the data — like looking only at studies that were blinded, or people who used cellphones for 10 or more years — they did find increases in tumor risks. Confusingly, when they divided up the analysis by tumor type, they found no increase in risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and a decrease in risk of meningioma.

Instead of more animal and even epidemiological studies, he thinks researchers should focus on finding the mechanisms by which cellphone radiation may affect human health. Since we’ll never have an RCT on cellphones and cancer, he added, studies should measure actual cellphone use and exposure to radio-frequency radiation, instead of estimations of how much people are exposed (which most studies currently do).

RF waves from cell phones have also been shown to produce “stress” proteins in human cells, according to research from Martin Blank, Ph.D., a special lecturer in the department of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University and another signer of the recent letter to the WHO and U.N. “These proteins are used for protection,” Blank says. “The cell is saying that RF is bad for me and it has to do something about it.”
“It’s quite informative that the NTP data found evidence of an increased tumor risk in the male rats for glial cells and in the [heart] Schwann cells,” said Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the Berkeley School of Public Health (who writes about electromagnetic radiation here). “That’s compelling evidence that what we’re seeing in humans — even though the signal is not clear — is highly suggestive, and that there is indeed something real going on with regard to tumor risk in humans.”
The study also found that about 5 to 7 percent of the male rats exposed to the highest level of radiation developed certain heart tumors, called malignant schwannomas, compared to none in the control group. Malignant schwannomas are similar to acoustic neuromas, benign tumors that can develop in people, in the nerve that connects the ear to the brain.
Studies in people: Another type of study looks at cancer rates in different groups of people. Such a study might compare the cancer rate in a group exposed to something like cell phone use to the rate in a group not exposed to it, or compare it to what the expected cancer rate would be in the general population. But sometimes it can be hard to know what the results of these studies mean, because many other factors that might affect the results are hard to account for.
By not formally reassessing its current limit, FCC cannot ensure it is using a limit that reflects the latest research on RF energy exposure. FCC has also not reassessed its testing requirements to ensure that they identify the maximum RF energy exposure a user could experience. Some consumers may use mobile phones against the body, which FCC does not currently test, and could result in RF energy exposure higher than the FCC limit.
There are ongoing worries about whether cellphones can give you cancer — especially brain cancer, since our phones spend so much time near our faces. It’s true that cell phones do emit radiation. But it’s radiofrequency radiation, which is much lower energy than the ionizing radiation you’d get from an X-ray, or, say, nuclear fallout. Ionizing radiation can cause DNA damage that can eventually lead to cancer. But the radiofrequency radiation from a cellphone doesn’t work that way — and today’s results support that.
There is great variability in survival by brain tumor subtype, and by age at diagnosis. Overall, the 5-year relative survival for brain cancers diagnosed from 2008 through 2014 was 33.2% (49). This is the percentage of people diagnosed with brain cancer who will still be alive 5 years after diagnosis compared with the survival of a person of the same age and sex who does not have cancer.
What the study showed: Most published analyses from this study have shown no statistically significant increases in brain or central nervous system cancers related to higher amounts of cell phone use. One analysis showed a statistically significant, although modest, increase in the risk of glioma among the small proportion of study participants who spent the most total time on cell phone calls. However, the researchers considered this finding inconclusive because they felt that the amount of use reported by some respondents was unlikely and because the participants who reported lower levels of use appeared to have a slightly reduced risk of brain cancer compared with people who did not use cell phones regularly (4–6).