Major Study Links Cellphone Radiation and Brain Cancer

Desiree Burns
November 5, 2018

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Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health's Toxicology Program (NTP) warned that cell phone radiation does cause cancer as it published the final results of its long-term study conducted on mice and rats. The final verdict: cellphone radiation may sometimes cause tumors in rats at high, continuous doses, but not in people.

Concerns over whether cellphones can cause cancer have been around for years.

The research has produced "clear evidence" that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR), such as those used in 2G and 3G cell phones during calls and texting, develop cancerous heart tumors.

The report matches a draft that was released in February. It found there is evidence that bathing rats in certain types of cellphone radiation for their entire lives might raise the risk of certain cancers in some of the rats.

Similarly, no significant findings emerged in the mouse study, according to the reports.

NTP senior scientist John Bucher said, "The exposures used in the studies can not be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cellphone".

The NTP team did not expose the rats to the 4G frequencies now in common use. In general, Bucher said, they advised the NTP to strengthen its confidence in what was found. For female rats and male- and female mice, the evidence was uncertain as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR.

Others said the latest findings do little to strengthen evidence surrounding RFR.

Unexpectedly, the study also found that, overall, the male rats exposed to the cellphone radiation lived longer than the rats who were not exposed to the radiation. They were especially less prone to a type of inflammatory kidney disease.

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"We saw evidence of DNA damage in some tissue of some animals", Bucher said. Professor Emeritus Anthony Miller MD, FRCP, FRCP (C), FFPH, former Director, National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group and former member World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Cancer 2005-2015 (Professor Miller was also former Director Epidemiology Unit National Cancer Institute of Canada; former Director, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Evaluation of Screening for Cancer; former Chairman Scientific Advisory Committee, Occupational Cancer Research Centre 2009-2017).

To be fair to the study though the New York Times is an unofficial press office for one of the largest suppliers of mobile phones - Apple. And mice were not as strongly affected as rats seemed to be. "From what we now understand, it likely differs dramatically from what we studied", said Michael Wyde, a lead toxicologist on the studies.

"Exposure to radiofrequency radiation has always been thought to be of no health concern as long as the energy level was low and didn't cause heating of the tissues", Bucher said.

But you probably don't need to be too anxious about these results, for one important reason: You are not a male rat. The study involved about 3,000 rodents and cost $30 million.

"In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies".

What's more, the rodents were exposed to cellphone radiation - known as radio-frequency radiation - at greater levels, and for much longer periods, than what people experience, the researchers said.

The lowest exposure level in the studies was equal to the maximum exposure allowed for cellphone users, while the highest exposure level in the studies was four times higher than the maximum level allowed. "Of course, people who are concerned about the risk can always choose to use a headset or similar device when using a mobile phone, so that any possible risk - however small or unlikely - can be completely avoided". Studies on human cell phone use often rely on questionnaires.

"As scientists, we welcome new studies", Shuren said. The report also says that the radiation levels were much higher than what people are exposed to when using their cellphones.

Some scientists have warned that 5G - which uses milimeter waves, rather than the microwaves that were the basis of previous generations - may in fact be more risky, but its far too soon to tell for sure. We believe the existing safety limits for cell phones remain acceptable for protecting the public health'.

"If scientists can better understand biological changes in animals, they will know more about what to look for in humans", the NTP said in its fact sheet on the study. There is debate regarding the potential hazards of cellphone use because of radiation, but there is still no conclusive evidence of cellphone radiation harm among humans.

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