Can Your Cell Phone Cause Cancer?

Date: August 1, 2016      Publication: Bottom Line Personal      Source:  Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, Environmental Health Trust      Print:

The Answer Just Changed from “Possibly” to “Probably”

You may have heard that cell phones have been linked to cancer but wondered if that could really be true. A new study offers strong evidence that this is the case—cell phones and other wireless devices emit a type of microwave radiation termed radiofrequency radiation (RFR) that can cause brain cancer and other cancers.

Here are the findings and what to do to minimize this risk to your health…

The Newest Evidence

The government’s National Toxicology Program (NTP) conducts scientific studies on toxins to see how they might affect the health of Americans. More than 90 studies show that the radiation emitted by cell phones and other wireless devices can damage DNA, the first step on the road to cancer.


In May of this year, the NTP published preliminary results from a two-year ­animal study on the health effects of cell-phone radiation—this was the largest study on animals and cell-phone radiation ever published.

One out of every 12 of the animals studied were affected by the radiation. Some of those that were exposed to daily, frequent doses of cell-phone ­radiation from birth developed glioma, a rare, aggressive type of brain cancer already linked to cell-phone use in people. (Glial cells surround and support neurons.) Other animals had precancerous changes in glial cells. And some developed rare tumors of the nerves around and within the heart called schwannomas. In contrast, a control group of animals not exposed to wireless radiation had no gliomas, no precancerous changes in glial cells and no schwannomas.

There are two crucial takeaways from this recent study…

  1. For decades, many scientists and governments have embraced the following scientific dogma—the only unsafe radiation is “thermal” radiation that heats tissue, such as an X-ray. “Nonthermal” RFR doesn’t heat tissue and therefore is safe. The latest study—during which animals exposed to RFR were monitored to ensure that there was no heating of tissue—contradicts this dogma.
  2. Epidemiological studies that analyze health data from hundreds or thousands of people have linked gliomas and schwannomas to long-term cell-phone use—and this latest study found the same type of cancers in animals exposed to wireless radiation, strengthening the link.

Even More dangers

Gliomas and schwannomas aren’t the only dangers. Research links wireless-device use to a range of other cancers, diseases and conditions…

  • Meningioma. A recent study published in Oncology Reports showed that heavy users of mobile and cordless phones had up to twice the risk for ­meningioma, cancer in the protective coverings that surround the brain.
  • Salivary gland (parotid) tumors. Salivary glands are below the ear and in the jaw—exactly where many people hold cell phones during conversation. A study published in American Journal of Epidemiology showed a 58% higher risk for these (usually) noncancerous tumors among cell-phone users.
  • Acoustic neuroma. Studies show that heavy or longtime users of cell phones have nearly triple the risk of developing acoustic neuromas (also called vestibular schwannomas), noncancerous tumors on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. Symptoms can include gradual hearing loss and tinnitus in the affected ear, along with balance problems, headaches and facial numbness and tingling.
  • Breast cancer. A study published in Case Reports in Medicine describes four young American women, ages 21 to 39, who had tucked their smartphones into their bras for up to 10 hours a day for several years. Each of them developed breast tumors directly under the antennas of their phones. None of the women had the cancer-causing BRAC1 or BRAC2 gene, a family history of cancer or any other known risk factors.
  • Male infertility and potency. Several studies link close contact with wireless devices—wearing a cell phone on the hip or using a laptop computer on the lap—with fewer sperm, sluggish sperm, abnormally-shaped sperm, sperm with damaged DNA and erectile dysfunction.
  • Sleeping problems. Research shows that people who use cell phones and other wireless devices in the hours before bedtime have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Both wireless radiation and the “blue light” from screens suppress melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.

How to Protect Yourself

Every step you take to reduce radiation is protective because exposure to radiation is cumulative—the higher the exposure, the higher your risk for cancer and other health problems.


The devices you should be concerned about include cell phones, cordless phone handsets and bases, Wi-Fi routers, wireless computers, laptops, iPads and other tablets, smartwatches, wireless fitness bands, iPods that connect to the Internet, wireless speakers, cordless baby monitors, wireless game consoles and any other type of wireless device or equipment such as thermostats, security networks, sound systems and smart meters.

Keep it at a distance. To decrease your exposure to wireless radiation, keep wireless devices as far away from you as possible. Just a few inches can make a big difference…

Never put the phone next to your head. Instead, use the speakerphone function or a wired headset or an earpiece.

Never place a turned-on device in a pocket or jacket or tucked into clothing. Keep it in a carrier bag, such as a briefcase or  purse. Never rest a wireless device on your body. This includes laptops and tablets—keep them off your lap.

Never fall asleep with your cell phone or wireless tablet in the bed or under your pillow. Many people fall asleep streaming radiation into their bodies.


Prefer texting to calling. And avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak—radiation is higher.

Turn it off. Putting your cell phone in “airplane” mode stops ­radiation. Also, look for the function key on your wireless device that turns off the Wi-Fi. Turn it off when the device isn’t in use. There’s also a function key to turn off Bluetooth transmissions. If you must use a Wi-Fi router at home, locate it as far away from your body as possible. And turn it off at night.

To stop a gaming console from emitting radiation, you need to turn it off and unplug it.

Don’t use your cell phone in metal surroundings such as a bus, train, airplane or elevator. Using the phone creates radiation “hot spots” that increase exposure. Exception: It is OK to use a cell phone in a car if your phoneis hooked into the car’s Bluetooth system—this reduces radiation to the user.

Trade in the cordless phone. Cordless phones and wireless routers that use a technology called DECT emit as much radiation as cell phones whether you are using them or not. At home, install telephones that get their signal by being plugged into a jack. Forward your cell phone to your landline whenever you’re home.


Source: Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, president of Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofit scientific and policy think tank focusing on cell-phone radiation. She is a former senior advisor to the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services and a former member of the National Toxicology Program’s Board of Scientific Counselors. She is author of Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation.

  • No Rad

    In most types of Bluetooth car systems, the hooking(pairing) of the cellphone to the car Bluetooth systems (audio-nav-radio-DVD with Bluetooth or Bluetooth hands free system) will not reduce the radiation emitted from the phone buy will increase it. If a cellphone is used in a car, and it is not against the window, it will most likely get bad reception and will emit more RF radiation to communicate to the nearest cell phone tower. In addition to that you now use the Bluetooth feature of the phone (most radiation) and the Bluetooth feature of the car system (more radiation).
    The only way I would use a cellphone in a car is a stationary cellphone that is installed in the car and has an external antenna.
    All the best
    Amir Borenstein

  • Ethel

    I read this study and did not get this conclusion at all. I would love to read it again but there is not a link and the study was months ago. If it was the same study the female rats even had a negative correlation. I would agree on the principle that we limit our radiation exposure. But this study did not prove anything.

  • Penelope Landis

    The National Toxicology Program really really is important- and too bad uninformed scientists are negating the results. The results clearly show effects! at non thermal levels meaning WE HAVE A PROBLEM. I recommend reading what the NTP scientists are clearly stating which is well detailed here

  • Great documentary on the subject… Full Signal gets into more detail. Also visit

  • bob8778

    I wonder about the medic alert devices elderly people wear.

    • bob8778

      My 91 year old mother had worn one on her left wrist for years. After months of pain in her left hip which was dismissed by her doctor as sciatica, she was finally found to have a large tumor on the illium portion of her pelvis, as well as Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

  • Sondra Limeburner

    My neighbor died last week of pancreatic cancer. Because he was always on call, he kept his cellphone on a belt directly on his waist for years. He himself believed that was the cause.