Largest Study to Date Finds No Cancer-Cell Phone Link

The results should have the world’s 5 billion cell phone users breathing a little easier.


Despite fears that cell phones may cause cancer, a new, larger study says your phone probably isn’t going to kill you after all.

Danish researchers studied more than 358,000 people in the largest study on the topic to date, and found no difference in cancer rates between those who have used cell phones for a decade and those who have not, the Associated Press reports. The study also ruled out an increased likelihood for cell phone users getting brain tumors near areas where people typically hold a phone.

Still, the study’s authors and outside advocates are saying that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear just yet. Currently, cell phones are on a list of possible carcinogens kept by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the new study adds to a field of mixed results from research on the issue.

Most studies on cell phones and cancer, including ones by the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, found no association between the two variables. But perhaps the most high profile, panic-inducing move came this past May, when the World Health Organization said scientists in 14 countries had decided that there was enough existing evidence to warrant concern.

Researchers on the new study are also cautioning that because brain tumors can take decades to develop, more long-term evidence needs to be examined before a link can be ruled out for sure. The authors also noted lingering concern about a "moderate increase" in risk for people who use cell phones very frequently.

Third party groups are cautiously optimistic about the newest results, saying that the world’s estimated 5 billion cell phone users shouldn’t change their behavior when using cell phones. "There are a lot more worrying things in the world than mobile phones," Hazel Nunn, head of Health Evidence and Information at Cancer Research U.K., told the AP.

Nunn added that there is no biological evidence that cell phones are inherently carcinogenic, as opposed to other substances linked to cancer such as tobacco. Instead, concern over cell phones comes from radio waves the phones use to operate, which can heat body tissue when absorbed at high levels, though there is no evidence that this process damages cells.   

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith