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Healthy Aging

The 411 on Cancer and Cell Phones

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 06/02/2011
Last Updated: 10/16/2012

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It seems as if the debate over the risks of cell phones has been growing along with cell phone usage. Back in 2000, there were 110 million cell phone users; in 2009, more than 285 million people in the United States subscribed to cell phone service, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. I know cell phones keep people connected, but at the risk of sounding like the baby boomer that I am, it amazes me when I think back to the days when talking on the phone meant sitting still and being connected—literally—by a cord.

It's no secret that because of the radio-frequency energy, a form of radiation that cell phones emit, they've been under both scrutiny and study for years to see their effects, if any, on our bodies—specifically our brains and other tissues in our heads. Researchers are concerned that the energy emitted from the phones can cause brain tumors, both malignant and benign types. It's also thought that your salivary glands might be exposed to this RF energy.

It's too exhaustive and confusing to keep track of each study, but over the years the conclusions have ranged from there being no link between cell phone use and brain cancers to a slightly increased risk of a tumor on the same side of the head as the reported phone use among people who had used the phone for 10 years or more. And to make things even more complicated and confusing, cell phone subscriptions do not necessarily relate to cell phone usage (as a listed subscriber may not be the primary user of the phone), and subscriptions do not indicate duration or frequency of use.

And just when you think cell phones are off the hook (sorry, I couldn't resist) comes another story.

The latest: Cell phones may cause certain types of brain cancer, says a panel of experts reporting to the World Health Organization. After reviewing dozens of studies, the group of 31 scientists from 14 countries declared cell phones to be "possibly carcinogenic to humans." They've been placed in the same category as the pesticide DDT and the gasoline exhaust coming from car engines.

Although it's based on "limited evidence," as a member of the wireless industry's trade group said, researchers, taking a different stance, have found a very small increase, hence a possible connection.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to use—and up my stock—of corded headsets, just in case there's a run on them. I think there should be, don't you?

This Matters: Limiting your cell phone use is not such a bad idea, and it's not just for this reason. is a huge problem. When someone is driving erratically, my mind no longer instantly thinks that they must have had one too many, but instead thinks, "They must be on their cell phone." And nine times out of 10, I'm right.

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I use my cell phone very little, and I see that turns out to be a good thing...and I agree about the headsets.

Something no one is talking about is the danger of carrying your phone on your hip. If the radiation is dangerous to your head when you hold the phone there, it is also likely having an effect on internal organs.

Interesting question. Here's what I found at Healthland.time.com:
It's not just brain cancer that worries some doctors. There's also some preliminary research to indicate that men who carry a phone in their pocket all day or clip it to a belt pocket could be putting their fertility at risk. By the same token, women who carry their phones in their bra could be increasing their risk of breast cancer. If possible, keep the phone on your desk or a table when you're not using it, just to be safe. And carry it around in a bag or in your coat rather than in a pants or shirt pocket.

I'm using a corded ear piece and cell speaker phone more and more. Good reasons to, I guess.

The Colbert Report did a funny bit last night about trying to cook a microwave burrito while talking to his Nana.

I have a question. Do cordless phones - the kind used in most homes these days - carry a similar risk?

Here's the answer from a 2005 factsheet I found that was published by the CDC:

Cordless telephones work the same as cell phones. The only difference is that the cordless phone is
limited to being close to the single base unit to which it belongs, while a cell phone can be carried around
all across the country because it can connect to the many base stations that the cell phone system has

Definitely put down the cell phone while driving and use the speaker phone function or earphones if it makes you feel better, but my scientifically inclined son asks, do you worry that if you hold a flashlight next to your head you'll get cancer? According to him, same chance.

I rarely use my mobile, so I guess being frugal on that score makes for less worry on the other.

Interesting comments. First off, I do not have a cell and never have had. Don't want one. I have always been suspicious of cell phone radiation. My ex used to work for a cell phone company in France and told our kids to use a head set about 15 years ago. So, the evidence was already out there. It just goes to show how powerful the cell phone lobby in the USA is, that they managed to suppress this information for this long and now the breaking news comes from an international organization. I agree with NoPotCooking about other areas of the body. Don't give up your land line!

You are probably in the minority of folks who don't own cell phones. Good thinking in light of the ongoing controversy!

I am sure that cell phones cause cancer. I wish I would just get rid of mine. I used to hate hate hate them. Now I fear I am addicted. Like smoking cigarettes, talking on the cell phone is a hard habit to break.

I hate cell phones and I'm planning a post similar to this one next week. From what I've read, land line phones with cords pose little to no risk. Also, I agree with No Pot, people talk very little of carrying them close to the body. Also in my research, I've found people shouldn't be carrying them on their hips or for men, in their front pockets either.

Yes, Living Large, there might be merit to carrying phones close to your body. See my reply to NoPot.

The cancer risk seems low given something like 4 billion people use cellphones, but it's stills scary! And they don't even address use of bluetooth devices, which might also be cancer-causing.

I personally steer clear of the Bluetooth devices, since it bothers me that they are resting against your head, much the same way a cellphone does.

I'll admit I couldn't live without my cell phone and I've given up on landlines. My phone's earplugs can also be used as a speaker system so I try to do that whenever possible.

This stuff comes up so often that I think people just tend to let it pass by and continue doing what they're doing. Great discussion in the comments.

My question is this: I don't really talk on my cell phone all that much, but I do check email, Twitter, and Facebook on it constantly when I'm away from home. Is that bad, too? If it's not near my head?

You are *so* right to talk about the real and immediate danger of talking on a cell while driving. Maybe the phones cause an increase in cancer; but how rare is this kind of cancer and what kinds of numbers are we talking about, anyway?

So corded earpieces are preferable than the Bluetooth type of device? I'm glad that I text more than talk-and when I talk I try to always use the corded earpiece that come with the phone.

Oh, don't get me started on idiots who use their phones while driving! Talking, texting... I even see the police in my town doing it.

I've done a lot of research on cell phones over the past 8+ years (for different articles I've written) and have long thought they are implicated in brain cancer. Yet, when I would tell even some professionals this they said no way, the evidence wasn't consistent. I also always try to use a headset -- not a blue tooth -- when I'm using my cell phone.

I've been wondering about this recommendation since it came out. I don't use my cell all that much. I still use a land line for most of my calls. But the cell is getting more and more use because more and more people have my # and call me on it.

From what I see when i leave my home, people use their phone as sort of a security blanket, they wouldnt be caught dead not talking to someone when they are food shopping or just shopping around town. Its s crutch for many because it makes them feel important having someone/anyone to talk to.
god forbid we should be QUIET WHEN ALONE. THATS MY THEORY SO THEREOFORE, NO NEED FOR ALL THE UNNECESSARY CALLS WHICH MIGHT CAUSE BRAIN CANCER. iTS JUST NOT WORTH IT. Anymone have any thoughts on it. I see people walking alone in the park , for me its a peaceful time, and i dont want to talk.
Maybe eveyone is just cracking up with the thought of being lonely for one second.

I've always been suspicious of the link, now I'm hooked on the thing, but try to keep it away from my head as much as possible.

I can believe it that cell phone radiation can cause cancer.
If I were a heavy user I would use a ear piece or speaker mouth piece thingy to try to lessen the radiation effect.

I think the light users of cell phones don't have to worry so much about the problem of radiation, for example those using Tracfone plans and Tracfone SVC phones because the plans are more economical the less you use the phone, so that economical incentive cuts your exposure to radiation.


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