Cell Phones & Cancer Risk

Last week, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a panel of the World Health Organization, issued a report on cell phones and brain cancer. The conclusion: there may be a possible link. The subject has been studied increasingly over the last decade as cell phones have become ubiquitous in our lives, but the findings have not been consistent. The WHO announcement received a great deal of attention and many headlines read that cell phones can indeed cause brain cancer. But the report appears to leave some room for debate.

Joining us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm is one of the 31 scientists — from 14 different countries — who contributed to the WHO report.

David McCormick is Senior Vice President and Director of the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute. He is also a professor of Biology and a board-certified toxicologist. His main areas of study concern carcinogens, cancer prevention and the biological effects of magnetic fields.

TIPS ON HOW TO REDUCE CELL PHONE RADIATION EXPOSURE:

USE A HEADSET OR SPEAKER
Headsets emit much less radiation than phones. Choose either wired or wireless. Some wireless headsets emit continuous, low-level radiation, so take yours off your ear when you’re not on a call. Using your phone in speaker mode also reduces radiation to the head.
LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS
Your phone emits radiation when you talk or text, but not when you’re receiving messages. Listening more and talking less reduces your exposures.
HOLD PHONE AWAY FROM YOUR BODY
Hold the phone away from your torso when you’re talking (with headset or
speaker), not against your ear, in a pocket, or on your belt where soft body tissues absorb radiation.
CHOOSE TEXTING OVER TALKING
Phones use less power (less radiation) to send text than voice. And unlike when you speak with the phone at your ear, texting keeps radiation away from your head.
POOR SIGNAL? STAY OFF THE PHONE
Fewer signal bars on your phone means that it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower. Make and take calls when your phone has a strong signal.
LIMIT CHILDREN’S PHONE USE
Young children’s brains absorb twice the cell phone radiation as an adult’s. Children should use phones for emergency situations only.
SKIP THE “RADIATION SHIELD”
Radiation shields such as antenna caps or keypad covers reduce the connection quality and force the phone to transmit at a higher power with higher radiation.
BUY A LOW-RADIATION PHONE
Consider replacing your phone with one that emits the lowest radiation possible and still meets your needs.

Source: www.ewg.org

While some organizations compare cell phone radiation, David McCormick does not think this is necessary. He says the difference between each cell phone and radiation exposure is so small that it isn’t important.

“There are some differences in RF levels, but the difference is not really large,” said McCormick.

And he says exposure can be affected by the amount you use the phone. He says using a Bluetooth or an earpiece is much more important.

“The output of individual phones isn’t something consumers should be worried about. Fairly modest changes in behavior work better to reduce exposure,” he said.

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG specializes in providing useful resources to consumers while simultaneously pushing for national policy change.

The EWG created a list, including more than 1,000 phones, ranking radiation levels between cell phones. It was last updated in December 2010. To see their findings on the top 10 best and worst phone and smartphones based on radiation levels, check out the charts below:


According to EWG, cell phone SAR value (Specific Absorption Rate) is one of several key parameters that affect actual amount of radiation that users are exposed to from their cell phone. Other factors are:

– Distance from the cell phone tower
– Type of technology used for transmitting the signal
– Frequency at which cell phone operates
– Age of the user

Because of these multiple factors that influence cell phone radiation exposure, EWG recommends a “tool-kit” approach. There are many steps users can take to decrease their exposure. The first, simplest and cheapest step is probably getting a headset, or even using the speaker phone mode, and texting rather than talking.

What do you think? Are you concerned about possible cancer risk from using your cell phone? Post your comments below or sound off on our discussion board.

For more information on cell phones and cancer risk, check out the links below:

WHO Press Release

National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet: Cell Phones and Cancer Risk

American Cancer Society: Cancer Causes: Cell Phones

Environmental Working Group: Cell Phone Radiation Exposure

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One response to “Cell Phones & Cancer Risk”

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