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Sharp Health News

Cell phone radiation and cancer

June 30, 2016

Cell phones and cancer: what’s the risk?

The question has lingered for years: Does using a cell phone increase your risk of getting cancer?

Despite the bulk of research finding no connection, partial results of a long-term, U.S. government study generated scary headlines in 2016. It found that rats exposed to the same radiation emitted from cell phones had a higher incidence of two types of rare cancers: malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas in the heart.

However, the completed study concludes that cell phone radiation is unlikely to be harmful to humans, citing the following evidence:

  • Exposures given to the rats were high — nine hours a day, seven days a week, for two years. It’s rare for people to hold cell phones to their heads this long. With the advent of texting, it’s rarer these days to even make a call, reducing the amount of radiation received by the brain.

  • Even with frequent daily use by the vast majority of adults, researchers have not seen an increase in events like brain tumors.

  • Based on this current information, researchers believe the current safety limits for cell phones are acceptable for protecting the public health

Researchers will continue to study the issue.

“It’s important that research continues on this issue,” says Dr. Charles Redfern, medical director of the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center at Sharp HealthCare. “Though the evidence so far doesn’t prove cell phones cause cancer, limiting your exposure to radiation from cell phones can make sense.”

If you are concerned about radiation from cell phones, here are some ways you can reduce your exposure:

  • Text instead of calling, when possible.
  • Use a speakerphone or hands-free headset.
  • Keep your phone out of your pocket.
  • Don’t sleep next to your phone (or if you must, put it on “airplane” mode).
  • Avoid using your phone in a moving vehicle or when the signal is weak. Radiation increases as your phone tries to connect with network antennas.

For the media: To talk with Dr. Redfern about the risks of cancer when using cell phones, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at or 858-499-3052.

This story was updated in February 2018 to reflect updated findings of the study.

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