But, dear reader, don’t think we’ve reached a “case closed” moment: Unfortunately, even the best evidence on cellphones and brain tumors is far from ideal. Remember, these cohort studies are still observational research — not experimental studies like RCTs. That means they can’t tell us about causation, and there are still many ways they could be biased.
It’s true that cellphones do emit radiation. And radiation is a scary word for a lot of people, thanks in part to the horrific aftermath of nuclear accidents and photographs of victims of the nuclear bombs the US dropped on Japan in World War II. People hear radiation and they associate it with nuclear radiation and the bomb, says Geoffrey Kabat, a cancer epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and author of the book Getting Risk Right. “There are all these associations and those are deeply ingrained in people. But it doesn’t apply here.”
1. Keep your distance. Do not keep your cell phone next to your body or in your bra. Some athletic wear companies are now making bras with cell phone pockets, as seen in the picture above. PLEASE do not put your phone in the pocket unless your phone is on airplane mode. There is evidence offered by the Environmental Health Trust to suggest that women who keep a cellular phone in their bra may develop breast cancer. Research also indicates that men who keep their cell phones on their belt or near their reproductive organs may have lower sperm counts and less sperm motility.
That mystery probably stokes fears about cellphone radiation instead of soothing them, though — in part because of how we in the media cover the rare and frightening. We’ve seen the same thing with fear over nuclear power plants, according to a paper published in Science in the 1980s by psychologist Paul Slovic. “Because nuclear risks are perceived as unknown and potentially catastrophic, even small accidents will be highly publicized and may produce large ripple effects,” Slovic wrote.
Still, despite the odds, these fears could be around for a while — because it’s hard to prove that cellphone radiation doesn’t cause harm. There are just too many combinations of genes, environmental exposures, patterns of cellphone use, plus a healthy helping of random chance to consider. It’s why we’re still having the conversation about whether coffee, for example, is good or bad for us. So while the bulk of evidence points to no health effects from cellphone radiation, the scientific literature is still somewhat mixed, Foster says. “Someone who wants to worry can pick and choose and find a lot of evidence that would support their theories.”
Another animal study, in which rats were exposed 7 days per week for 19 hours per day to radiofrequency radiation at 0.001, 0.03, and 0.1 watts per kilogram of body weight was reported by investigators at the Italian Ramazzini Institute (35). Among the rats with the highest exposure levels, the researchers noted an increase in heart schwannomas in male rats and non-malignant Schwann cell growth in the heart in male and female rats. However, key details necessary for interpretation of the results were missing: exposure methods, other standard operating procedures, and nutritional/feeding aspects. The gaps in the report from the study raise questions that have not been resolved.
Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is an indicator for calculating the level of radiation absorbed in the body. This indicator represents the rate of energy absorption by the tissue and is expressed in units of Watt/kg. The Consumer Protection Regulations (information on non-ionizing radiation from mobile phones) of 2002, stipulate the duty to label the product, specifying the radiation level of the phone’s model and the maximum permitted radiation level. This regulation allows to compare the emitted radiation level between different instruments and to take this into consideration when weighing the factors determining the choice of a new instrument at the time of its purchase.
When you make a phone call, just flip the shielded front cover down when you put the phone against your head. It’s that simple. By keeping the shielded front cover closed while against any part of your body, a barrier is created to protect from a broad spectrum of potentially harmful cell phone radiation emissions, yet won’t affect signal quality. You can use your cell phone with a higher sense of safety by simply keeping the shielded flip cover between your body and radiation-emitting source.
Epidemiology studies investigating cell phone use patterns with human cancer risk have produced inconsistent results. Some studies enrolled people who already had tumors with suspected links to RF radiation, such as gliomas, acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors. Researchers compared the self-reported cell phone use habits of the cancer patients with those of other people who did not have the same diseases. Other studies enrolled people while they were still healthy, and then followed them over time to see if new cancer diagnoses tracked with how they used cell phones. All the epidemiology studies, however, have troubling limitations, including that enrolled subjects often do not report their cell phone use habits accurately on questionnaires.
Remember: The cancer incidence data in humans, at least to date, suggests no avalanche of head and neck tumors. Since so many people are exposed to cellphones, if there were a big risk, we’d probably see it turn up. “If cellphones caused brain tumors at the rate that cigarettes caused lung cancer,” said Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society, “we would have figured it out by now.”
5. Use an EMF shielding device. A variety of holsters and other cell phone holders and shields are available that claim to block radiation. If you buy such a product, look to see if it has an SAR (specific absorption rate) value. You want a shielding device that blocks the majority of EMFs. (SAR is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by a body exposed to EMFs.)
Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from x-rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer. However, although many studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans (2).