Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer Or Brain Tumors? The Controversy Remains

A recent large-scale study reveals that it is not possible to catch cancer from cell phone usage, according to Medscape. A lot of people will consider this finding assuring since it’s only natural to wonder if putting the cellphone on the ear, close to the brain area, could lead to a brain tumor. The answer is a resounding no.

The study was conducted in Australia. The University of Sydney was put to the task of analyzing 29 years’ worth of data on the subject.

“In their study, the researchers examined age- and sex-specific incidence rates in 19,858 men and 14,222 women diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia from 1982 to 2012. The findings show that the incidence of brain cancer did not increase during the study period in any group except those 70 to 84 years of age.”

According to lead researcher Simon Chapman, AO, Ph.D., emeritus professor of public health, the recent study bolsters the conclusion of many other similar studies conducted in New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, and the Nordic countries. Apparently, all such studies have ended up empty handed for any evidence linking excessive cellular phone usage with contracting brain and other types of cancers.

Aside from Medscape, Big Think also looked into the study, writing, “Hooray! We can all keep using our cell phones without fear of developing brain tumors.”

Lead Researcher Chapman also added that based on the study, age is actually the biggest predictor of most cancers.

“The radiation from cell phones is nonionizing, so it is highly unlikely to cause cancer.”

Here is Radiation Answers‘ take on the two basic types of radiation.

Non-ionizing(or non-ionising) radiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum (photon energy) to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. [In contrast], ionizing radiation tops the spectrum with the highest energy.”

Following Chapman’s reasoning, ionizing radiation would be the type of radiation most likely associated with causing cancer. Since cellular phones and other similar devices cannot produce this type of radiation, such devices can be safely taken out of the equation as possible candidates for cancer formation.

However, in the Big Think report on the same University of Sydney study, Dr. Lennart Hardell of University Hospital in Örebro, Sweden said, “The study by Dr. Chapman and colleagues does not give incidence data for high-grade glioma located in the temporal or frontal lobe, so I am afraid that their study is not very informative.”

In his critique of the study, Dr. Hardell also said the following.

“We have consistently found an increased risk for high-grade glioma, including the most malignant type, glioblastoma multiforme grade IV, and use of wireless phones. Lumping together all types of brain tumors, regardless of location in the brain, hampers any conclusions on incidence trends.”

In the light of this criticism, here’s the likely future direction for the research on whether cellular phones are cancer-causing or not. The University of Sydney research team led by Chapman may need to revisit the voluminous data at the team’s disposal in order to properly categorize different types of cancers as well as brain tumors. Once the team has accomplished this, it will need to again correlate the data to cellular phone usage per patient.

Obviously, redesigning the research methodology can take some time. For the time being, it’s pretty much back to the drawing tables. The general public will have to live with a highly generalized finding that cellular and other similar electronic devices that emit radio waves are free from cancer-causing agents.

Where data sits right now, it is impossible to ascertain if more acute or advanced cancers can be exacerbated by the excessive use of cellular devices. So in the final analysis, it is far safer to assume the opposite of the study’s finding, namely that the cell phone remains a usual suspect until proven otherwise. This brings us back to square one, but then again, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]