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Can mobiles cause cancer?

Mobile phones hit the headlines again this week as a US cancer researcher recommended that staff should limit their use of their phones because of the potential cancer risk. It’s a controversial issue that has been fuelled by constant see-sawing media stories about studies that find a link and others that do not.

Let’s take a look at what we already know about mobile phones and cancer.

The bigger picture

The main issue is that there is still no strong evidence to suggest that mobile phones pose a cancer risk.

Their use has skyrocketed since the 1980s but during this time, the numbers of people with brain cancer has not changed very much.

Several studies have directly looked at the risk of cancer in mobile phone users, and overall, the evidence from these suggests that mobile phones do not cause any type of cancer, including brain cancers and leukaemia.

The largest study so far, which looked at over 420,000 people, found that even people who had used mobiles for 10 years did not have increased risks.

While some studies have linked mobile phones to cancer, almost all of these have come from a minority of research groups, whose methods have been criticised by other scientists, not least for the practice of publishing the results of the same study in multiple journals. Recently, the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority concluded that “bias and chance are the most likely explanations for their findings.”

A few studies have found that people with brain cancer are more likely to develop the disease on the side of the head that they hold their phone to, even though overall, they found no link between phone use and cancer. That’s a puzzling result and it’s most likely down to chance or inaccuracies. If phones were really increasing the risk of brain cancer on one side of the head, you would still expect to see this danger reflected in the overall result.

The problem is that many of these studies ask people with cancer to remember how they used their phones, often many years ago. Their memories may be biased if they had previously heard about a connection between phones and cancer in the media.

And most importantly, so far no one has been able to consistently agree on how mobile phones could cause cancer, and that’s been a big blow for the argument that they pose a risk. Sure, the phone gives off microwave radiation, but it has millions of times less energy than, say, an X-ray and is not powerful enough to damage our DNA. Nor is the heating effect of this radiation large enough to affect our bodies. Other suggestions have been put forward, but none are backed by consistent evidence.

The bottom line

Recently, a report from the Mobile Telecommunications & Health Research Programme, which looked at all the available evidence, came to the same conclusions. It said that:

  • Mobile phones aren’t linked to any negative health effects.
  • Short-term mobile phone use does not cause brain cancer, and does not affect brain function.
  • There is no evidence that the symptoms experienced by people who suffer from ‘electrical hypersensitivity’ are the result of exposure to mobiles or base stations.
  • There is no evidence that mobiles could affect our cells beyond heating them.
  • The effects of exposures of 10 years or more is unclear and deserves more research.

The last point is a valid one. Mobile phones are still a young technology. Studies suggest that using them for 10 years or less is safe, but only further research can tell us about longer-term effects.

For the moment, the only health risk that has been conclusively linked to mobile phones is a higher risk of driving accidents. People who use mobile phones while driving, even with a hands-free kit, are easily distracted and are four times more likely to be involved in an accident.

UPDATE: It has come to our attention that our main website mentions precautions that people can take if they are concerned about mobile phones, while this blog post does not. In light of that, here’s what we say over on our main Healthy Living site, for people who want to take action while new research is being carried out.

“Until we get a conclusive answer, the Government recommends that people take precautions. It advises mobile phone users to keep their call times short. And children under the age of 16 should only use mobile phones for essential calls, because their head and nervous systems may still be developing. You can read the Government recommendations in full at the Department of Health website.”

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Ingrid June 30, 2010

Well Tony, don’t speak too soon! Cancer takes `years’ to develop. Just keep your fingers crossed that by the time all of you teenagers feel the effects in a few years time, we will have a cure for cancer, which is likely to become a pandemic! Then you might regret your comments

Tony Parkin June 30, 2010

i am a 15yr old boy using a mobile daily for texts and calls lasting at least 1hr and i do not think that the risks are high enough to be a serious risk wheni need my phone everyday

Henry Scowcroft December 18, 2009

Ingrid, my comments re. ionising and non-ionising radiation were directed at Ami, who commented directly before you.

Ingrid December 17, 2009

Henry, please don’t be so patronising! I KNOW that there is a difference between ionising and non-ionising radiation and by now I think that everyone understands this. What I don’t understand is that you didn’t get my drift or you didn’t want to( which seems more likely). I was questioning the `transparency’ of statements made by the government,the HPA and its `advisors’, surrounding this issue of `radiation’, hence my reference to the NRPB ignoring early warnings against damage to the unborn child from X-Rays.

Ionising radiation is classed as a pollutant, yet non-ionising radiation is not, although there is plenty of research which refutes this, for exampample 1 500 Russian studies since the 1960s, all translated and summarised by Prof.Dr.Karl Hecht, who has now been appointed to monitor the health of the Russian Astronauts for the next Mars mission. This may account for the fact that the Russian Radiation Protection Board, unlike its British counterpart, publicises far more stringent warnings regarding the effect of `NON IONISING’ radiation.

Below the translated Interview with the Radiologist Professor Dr.Heyo Eckel from the Bundesärztekammer (equivalent to the BMA , copied from the archived hese-uk pages at

The interview given below was published by the Schwabischen Post on 7 December 2006.

In Hüttlingen, a community near to Ellwangen, the residents are, just as in other places, fighting against a planned mobile telecommunications transmitter.

Dr-Ing. Frank Ermisch Diplom-Physiker, Ellwangen

The cell nucleus is mutating
Professor Dr Heyo Eckel is a radiation expert. He is a radiologist, lecturer at Göttingen University, vice chairman of the Health and Environment Committee of the German Medical Association [Ausschusses Gesundheit und Umwelt der Bundesärztekammer], Chairman of the Niedersachsen province charity Children of Chernobyl. And because he also still has family connections in Hüttlingen, we spoke with him about electromagnetic radiation.

by Markus Lehmann Hüttlingen/Göttingen

“For radiologists there are two areas: the scientific-formal-legal and the emotional.

His scientific conclusion: electromagnetic, pulsed waves from transmitter masts and mobile phones affect and deform the cell nucleus. The effects are comparable with those of X-rays. As long as the harmlessness of mobile telecommunications is not proven, everything must be done to protect the population against potential health damage.

Are electromagnetic waves dangerous for humans?

These waves deform and damage the cell nucleus. That is proven and has resulted in experiments ‘in vitro’ (in laboratory studies). The cell nucleus can also mutate as a result of natural occurrences. However, one has no control over that. But changes due to the influence from electromagnetic waves are definitely documented.

And this technology is deployed across the country?

According to the present state of scientific knowledge there is no alarming health risk. Out of the many thousand of reports, there are only 400 to 500, which comply with purely scientific protocol and thus must be taken seriously. But one must consider: the mobile telecommunications technology is still relatively new, but yet it is now deployed across the whole country. Consequential damage is hard to ascertain, not yet and maybe only after years. Like in bygone days with X-Ray radiation.

You are also involved in the Tschernobyl problem …

Yes. And the injuries that result from radioactive radiation are identical with the effects of electromagnetic radiation. The damages are so similar that they are hard to differentiate.

So you are saying, that there is a potential or suspected danger. What is your suggestion?

One must act politically. The politicians refer constantly to safe limits. There must be an agreement with the industry on a minimum distance from base stations, as in Switzerland. Above all there must be further research on how these electromagnetic waves effect humans. This radiation does not taste, it does not smell. And one does not hear it. It is not discernable through our senses. And, that’s why people are afraid of it.

What do you advise citizens who have fears about a transmitter in their vicinity?

Legally, one cannot do much. One can advise, that people unite together. In order to exert pressure – moral pressure – on the local politicians, the provincial and federal government politicians. Because they have a duty of care to avert presumed or perceived damage to citizens.”

I hope that this explains my position on `non-ionising’ radiation and clears up any misconception that I don’t understand the subject dear Henry.

Henry Scowcroft December 16, 2009

Ami – like Merlin above you’ve confused “ionising” and “non-ionising” radiation. As we said earlier:

Some high frequency electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays and some types of ultraviolet light, has enough energy to knock electrons off atoms, and so can damage DNA and other biological molecules. This is known as ‘ionising radiation‘.

Other frequencies are too low-powered to affect atoms in this way – and are referred to as non- ionising radiation. This includes visible light, infrared, microwaves and the radio waves that are given off by mobile phones.

On your second point – we absolutely agree that evidence might emerge over time – several studies are now running to answer these questions. In the mean time we believe, as stated earlier, the current precautionary stance is sufficient given the existing evidence.

Ingrid December 16, 2009

Could someone please set the record straight here! Is Prof. Anthony Swerdlow, a Cancer specialist advising the HPA on such matters as `”LACK OF EVIDENCE” of mobile phone use and the development of cancer ALSO a member of ICNIRP and chair of the
Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) to the government ??
Is it `ethical’ for someone in his `position’ to wear three different hats?

Could one expect a member of ICNIRP to give contrary advise regarding the connection between microwave communication and cancer?? We all know that ICNIRP insists on `no link’. There are plenty of eminent cancer specialists worldwide who take an entirely different view!

The SAGE group for example, a working group looking at the `precautionary’ approach to EMF exposure from overhead powerlines was set up and funded partly by the Dept. of Health and Children with Leukaemia. They met over 3 years discussing this issue and came up with the recommendation that magnetic field exposure above 0.4 microTesla could double the risk of childhood leukaemia and other conditions. ICNIRP’s safety limit is 100 microTesla. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE! And guess what: The government threw out SAGE’s recommendations. I wonder why! If those recommendations had been implemented, it would have put `all’ ICNIRP guidance in question.

So was the SAGE process a mere paper exercise and talking shop to pretend that this matter was being seriously considered?? Whilst other countries are taking this particular EMF issue far more seriously, the UK is lacking behind and is still placing brandnew building only meters away from high voltage power lines.

Not many people know that the UK was the last country to stop the X Ray of pregnant women on the advise of the NRPB, now appearing under the new heading HPA. Can we rely on the government and its agents to protect us? I think NOT.

Here is info about Prof.Swerdlow on the internet:

Anthony Swerdlow was educated in medicine at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. After junior posts in clinical medicine, epidemiology and public health in the Oxford region and London, he worked in epidemiology at the University of Glasgow and at the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys before moving to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1987 and then to the Institute of Cancer Research in 2000. He is currently Professor and Head of the Section of Epidemiology and Director of the Department of Health Cancer Screening Evaluation Unit at the Institute, and Honorary Consultant in Epidemiology at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

His research is in chronic disease epidemiology, mainly on cancer but also on other diseases including type 1 diabetes and CJD. His research interests have for many years included non-ionising radiation and he is currently a member of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and its Epidemiology Standing Committee. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and was a member of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones.

Ami December 16, 2009

Yo, all this information is very confusing. Over a certain amount of years wouldn’t the radiation from mobile phones eventually cause cancer? I mean, after all, radiation is dangerous even in small quantities.

I reckon that over time the radiation from mobile phones will start to show it’s effects. Also this can also depend on how often you use your mobile phone? And I have heard that leaving your mobile phone on at night can be dangerous too. These are still early days and people will continue using mobile phones for years to come, so how can you be sure that mobile phones wont have any link to cancer in the future?

Eileen OConnor December 15, 2009

A new Post “#1175:San Francisco law would require cell phone warnings” was written on the December 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm on “EMFacts Consultancy”.

From Mona Nilsson:

Law would require cell phone warnings
By: Katie Worth
Examiner Staff Writer
December 15, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Every cell phone sold in San Francisco could soon come with a label detailing the level of radiation you will be exposed to by using it and recommending a headset to avoid radiation exposure.

If a proposal endorsed Monday by the Commission on the Environment’s policy committee — and preliminarily supported by the mayor — moves forward, not only would consumers be alerted of potential risks of cell phone radiation, but it could become illegal to promote the devices in public schools, and the federal government would be officially called upon to change their standards for cell phones.

The committee’s 3-0 vote came in response to some scientific studies that suggest cell phone radiation can, over long periods of time, cause brain tumors on the side of the brain where the phone is held, and men who carry cell phones in their pocket may experience lower sperm counts.

Other recommendations made by the committee Monday were that The City purchase cell phones emitting the lowest possible radiation; that the school district educate students and parents about cell phone radiation; and the federal and state governments consider banning cell phone advertising aimed at children, who may be more vulnerable to any health risks associated with mobile phones.

The committee initially considered requiring cell phone merchants to provide a headset with any cell phone, but backed off on that requirement for now. It instead directed The City to “explore ways to encourage” the cell phone industry to provide headsets.

The proposal still must be endorsed by the Commission on the Environment, and then approved by the Board of Supervisors and the mayor. However, Mayor Gavin Newsom supports the idea in concept, mayoral spokesman Joe Arellano said.

“Mayor Newsom believes that cell phone radiation labeling is the next frontier in terms of consumer safety,” Arellano said. “He believes this step will allow The City to take a lead role in the United States in promoting labeling for cell phones at the point of purchase.”

In fact, Maine may beat San Francisco to the punch. That state’s legislature is considering a bill that would require a warning label on cell phones advising children and pregnant women to keep the devices away from their heads and bodies.

Monday’s meeting was attended by Ellie Marks of Lafayette, who helped advocate for Maine’s bill after her husband developed a large tumor on the side of his brain where he holds his cell phone. She said they are convinced his extensive cell phone use over 20 years caused the tumor. She said he used the phone so much she often threatened to throw it away.

“And how I wish I had,” she said. “I’m angry because this horror could have been avoided.”

Dial defense

A Commission on the Environment committee is proposing all cell phones sold in The City be accompanied by labels detailing radiation levels.

Possible effects of cell phone usage
- Brain tumors
- Lowered sperm count

Committee recommendations
- City purchase cell phones emitting lowest possible radiation
- Schools educate students and parents about cell phone radiation
- Federal and state governments restrict cell phone advertising aimed at kids

Source: Commission on the Environment policy committee

Devra Davis December 4, 2009

Cell Phones and Brain Cancer—the jury is still out

According to headlines trumpeted around the world, cell phones are safe. This reassuring conclusion rests on an analysis of trends in brain cancer in Scandinavian countries up to 2003 which did NOT tie these trends in any way to actual patterns of use of cell phones.

In fact, in Sweden, Norway and Finland, about half of all persons had cell phones in 2000. It would be unreasonable to expect to see any general population effect from such phone use in such a short period of time. Scientists know that brain cancer can take a decade or longer to develop in adults. In the case of the Hiroshima bombing that ended World War Two, brain cancers associated with that one time massive exposure to radiation did not become evident until forty years later.

The authors of this work published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week actually are much more balanced than the headline writers. We all recognize the tremendous positive role that phones are playing around the world today. But, their safety, and their impact on the developing brain, remains a matter of grave concern that merits serious research and will not be resolved by spinning limited studies such as this one.
The authors of this analysis of brain cancer in adults in Northern Europe note that their findings could simply mean that their study did not follow people for long enough period of time and that their study did not determine or focus on those individuals who had used cell phones the most for the longest, especially young adults. Instead, their analysis solely reported on the trend in this one site of cancer.
A number of researchers who have looked at more detailed studies on brain cancer and cell phone use have reached far different conclusions. Only after 10 or more years of very heavy mobile phone use does a risk of brain cancer become evident. Prof. Lennart Hardell of Sweden has found that those who begin using cell phones heavily as teenagers have 4 to 5 times more brain cancer as young adults. In this recent study of the entire population, very few persons are likely to have been heavy users of cell phones for more than a decade and even fewer will have done so since adolescence.
Given the limited networks available at the time that this Scandinavian study began, and the high cost of earlier phones, proportionally few people have been heavy users for a long period of time. To conclude that the absence of a clear trend of increased brain tumors in Scandinavia means that there will be no such trend in the future is wishful thinking that endangers all of us.

In the meantime, it is important to take precautions such as those urged by Sir William Stewart and ensure that children not use cell phones excepting for emergencies. And it is critical that research proceed to clarify relevant health issues associated with this rapidly expanding technology
Recent studies by scientists in many different nations have found that radiofrequency signals can directly damage DNA without producing any noticeable change in temperature, and can produce cancer-inducing free radicals, proteins known to be tied with mutation, and memory loss in both animals and humans. (see for more details) Given the dramatic increase in mobile phone use in the past few years, it is foolish to assume that their safety has been established. The technologies are changing rapidly. We need a major international research program to evaluate their impact on health, especially how they affect the brain of the young.
Israel, France, China, Russia, Finland, Scotland, the U.K., and the European Commission have all issued various warnings to limit the use of cell phones by children. The brain of a child doubles in the first two years of life and is not fully mature and protected until the early twenties.
Four billion people today are using cell phones and many of them are under the age of twenty. In truth the jury is out on the long term impacts of cell phones on our health. There is no scientific basis to conclude otherwise.

Ed Yong November 26, 2009

Hi Eileen,

Your paper reviews the same set of research that we’ve already discussed and analysed on this blog and in the comments. Our position on mobile phones and cancer remains the same. It is clear that all research in this area has flaws, but we see no strong reasons to go beyond the Government’s current precautionary stance.

Eileen OConnor November 25, 2009

I’m still waiting to receive a reply from Cancer Research with regards to the following paper, sent on 25th August, its now 25th November????

“Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone”.

Eileen OConnor August 26, 2009

Please see enclosed very important new report on cellphones and brian tumours.The report has been endorsed by leading scientists and physicians worldwide, including Ronald Herberman, MD, Director Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Martin Blank,PhD of Columbia University ( and David Carpenter, MD, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany. It was also released to the media, globally, as well as to the U.S. Congress.

Could Cancer Research UK please read the report in full and report back?

Press Release

25th August, 2009, Coldfield, West Midlands, UK. Radiation Research Trust, a UK-based charity focused on the health effects of electromagnetic fields from wireless technologies, today released a report called, “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone,” along with other international health advocacy groups on two continents the report was released by a collaborative group of International EMF activists. Groups affiliated with the report include Powerwatch and the Radiation Research Trust in the U.K and in the U.S., EMR Policy Institute, and The Peoples Initiative Foundation.

Download the new report from the Radiation Research Trust:

View the You Tube Introduction to the report:

The new report analyses the science on cellphones and brain tumours, and reviews in detail 11 key design flaws in the 13-country, industry funded Interphone Study, which underestimates risk of brain tumours.

Eileen O’Connor, Director of Radiation Research Trust, says, “It is time for government and industry to stop the denial about the health effects of microwave radiation and do what is right to protect public health”. Andrew Mitchell MP, Trustee of Radiation Research Trust and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, says, “I welcome the scientific debate about cell phones and brain tumours and a serious discussion of any design flaws of the Interphone study.”

Pressure has been mounting on governments around the world to protect children from cell phone radiation. Russian officials have recommended children under the age of 18 years not use cell phones at all. Similarly, the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Germany and India have discouraged use of cell phones by children. In Finland, the Radiation and Nuclear Power Authority has urged parents to err on the side of caution. France is nearing the point where it will make it illegal to market cell phones to children, and recently banned mobile phones in elementary schools.

Radiation emitted from wireless technologies has been shown in scientific research to show leakage of the blood-brain-barrier, and deleterious effects on sperm, including decreased sperm counts and reduced sperm motility, among many other biological effects. Studies independent of industry, consistently show there is a “significant” risk of brain tumours from mobile phone use.

Recently, in Austria, The Austrian Social Insurance for Occupational Risk (AUVA) commissioned Vienna Medical University to research the effects of cell phone radiation on the brain, immune system, and proteins. The AUVA studies have further confirmed the existence of non-thermal effects from mobile phone radiation, reinforcing the need for governments to adjust exposure guidelines.

Brian Stein, Chairman of Radiation Research Trust, and CEO of food giant, Samworth Brothers, adds “Responsible action on the part of governments is urgently required to protect future generations.”

The UK Radiation Research Trust (RRT) is a leading health advocacy organization mobilizing supporters and advocating for a precautionary approach to electromagnetic radiation and government warnings regarding wireless technologies. Its purpose is to uncover and communicate the true facts concerning electromagnetic radiation and health.

Contact: USA – Lloyd Morgan

Tel.510 841 4362


UK – Alasdair Philips

Tel. 01353 778422


Eileen O’Connor

Director, Radiation Research Trust


Henry Scowcroft August 11, 2009

Ingrid points out that the Li Ka Shing Foundation helps fund several Cancer Research UK institutes and researchers. We are enormously grateful for the continued support of trusts, foundations and of course our corporate supporters, without whom we could not fund much of our life-saving work.

However, we’re keen to stress that all the research carried out in these establishments and by these scientists is – as it should be – completely independent, and regularly peer-reviewed by international experts.

We’d also like to point out that only a small proportion of our income comes from such sources – the vast majority of our fundraising comes from the thousands of individual supporters who give up their time and effort to fund our work.

You can read more about how our income is raised, and download our Annual Review – which contains full details of our funding sources – on our ‘About Us’ website.



Andrew Goldsworthy August 11, 2009

I guess many people will be interested to see if mobile/cordless phone use might be a contributing factor to the range of recently reported oral cancers. It would be reassuring (or otherwise) to know if there were any relationship between the side of the head having the cancer and the side normally used for the telephone.

You must have records of the side with the cancer, and you could find out the side normally used for the phone by calling surviving patients on their mobiles and asking them which hand they were holding the phone. It would also be useful to ask them on which side they normally use a cordless phone (they are not necessarily the same). In so far as many people spend more time on their cordless phone than on their (more expensive) mobile connection, this is an extremely important question.

I hope you will be able to follow this up and publish the results.

Ingrid August 7, 2009

The following is taken from the Li Ka-shing Foundation website and states `clearly’ that the mobile phone industry has a huge `financial’ stake of
GBP 16.5 million in cancer research! ENOUGH SAID! The phrase : ” Do not bite the hand that feeds you” springs to mind.I find the leading sentence, and in particular the word `responsibility’ very ironic.


7 Aug 2009 Fri

Contents by Topic
Li Ka-shing
What’s New
“I believe in freedom as I believe in responsibility.”

Li Ka-shing Main > Projects > Healthcare >University of Cambridge

1. Hutchison/ MRC Research Center
Established with a donation of GBP 5.3 million (US$10.5 million) from Hutchison Whampoa and in collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cancer Research UK, the Center is located on the new island site at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, with a gross floor area of 4,000 sq. m. The new building opened in 2002 and is comprised of an MRC Cellular and Molecular Biology Unit and the Hutchison Cancer Research Unit, which is staffed by specialists from the University and will promote ways of applying fundamental research to the clinical treatment of patients. It is hoped that the establishment of this Research Center will help take full advantage of the University’s resources both in its biomedical departments and in the Clinical School and result in a breakthrough in cancer research.

2. The Li Ka Shing Center
Established in 2007 with a GBP 16.5 million (US$32.6 million) donation from Hutchison Whampoa and in collaboration with the internationally renowned Cancer Research UK, and the University of Cambridge, the Li Ka Shing Center boasts a gross floor area of 14,000 sq.m. and houses the new Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute. Its aim is to bring together some of the best researchers and medical professionals of Cambridge University and Cancer Research UK to create a center for basic and applied cancer research that should be unparalleled.

More than 300 scientists in 20 research groups will be based at the Institute. The Director of the Center is Professor Bruce Ponder, Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute and a leading cancer researcher who is also joint head of the HWL/MRC Research Center, which opened in 2002. Professor Ponder’s research covers the genetics of breast cancer.

3. Li Ka Shing Professorship of Oncology
To reinforce the University of Cambridge’s position at the forefront of cancer research, the Foundation has established a Professorship of Oncology at the University. The first holder of the Chair is Professor Bruce Ponder, who will oversee research on the epidemiology of cancer at the Strangeways Research Laboratory; translational clinical research in Addenbrooke’s Hospital; cellular and molecular studies in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre; and a range of research groups in the new Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute.

4. Biomedical Computing Research
Modern wireless technology makes it possible for medical professionals to receive high quality clinical information at the point of care.

walter May 26, 2009

Studies on Oxidative Stress from mobiles

Ed, Having initially denied effects like this, you now say that “Further research is warranted, but the effects are generally very small”.

But aren’t you worried that allegedly “small” (!) short term effects can cause larger long term effects?

You urge caution in interpretation. But you were so “cautious” that you didn’t even mention them!

Below is a list of some of the studies that unequivocally found oxidative stress from mobiles. Let’s look at some to see if this “caution” is justified.

What have we got: mostly rats, and human cells. Human platelets, human nostrils, human nitric oxide levels. Rat brain, rat hearts, rat retina, rat kidneys, rat nasal mucosa, rat endometrium and rat skin.

Ed, Assuming that all those studies must have a purpose, I think there is too much here to be dismissed, especially as these are only short term studies.


Oxidative stress from mobiles

1) Mobile EMF leads to oxidative stress in rats as measured by MDA, NO, ADA and reduced SOD and GSH, reversed by Ginko-biloba.
2) EMF from mobiles myocardial oxidative stress in rats (reversed by CAPE a components of honeybee propolis),
3) Mobile induced plasma LPO and reduced SOD, GSH-Px.
4) Mobile reduced DOS-1 in human blood platelets.
5) Simulated GSM MAST radiation well below ICNIRP limits led to MDA, reduced GSH, SOD in rats.
6) Mobile induced oxidative stress in rat retina. Melatonin vs CAPE, both reversed, Melatonin “won narrowly” on GSH.
7) EMF from mobile Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), oxidative stress in rat kidneys, CAPE reverses
8) Melatonin vs CAPE, mobile damage to rat kidneys, both reversed, Melatonin overall more effective
9) Mobile effects on rats kidneys, rats pre-treated with Melatonin were protected.
10) Nonlinear time window – effects of mobile on human blood platelets with respect to SOD-1 and MDA – after 1,5,7 mins, SOD-1 down, MDA up, but after 3 mins, the reverse.
11) Mobile radiation-induced increases in nitric oxide levels and
12) Mobile radiation-induced increases in nitric oxide levels
13) 900 MHz mobile induced histopathologic changes and oxidative stress in rat endometrium: protection by vitamins E and C,
14) Modification of membrane fluidity in melanin-containing cells by 2.45-GHz pulsed microwaves, via superoxide dismutase.
15) Oxidative stress-mediated skin damage in experimental mobile phone model can be prevented by melatonin.
16) GSM signals affect 53BP1 and gamma-H2AX foci in human lymphocytes, in EHS and healthy people.
17) 915 MHz microwaves induced responses in lymphocytes, similar to stress response induced by heat shock
18) Microwaves from UMTS/GSM mobile phones induce long-lasting inhibition of 53BP1/gamma-H2AX DNA repair foci in human lymphocytes,
19) Non-thermal activation of the hsp27/p38MAPK stress pathway by mobile phone radiation in human endothelial cells: molecular mechanism for cancer- and blood-brain barrier-related effects
20) Mobile phone signals induce apoptosis and inactivation of the multi-chaperone complex in human epidermoid cancer cells,
21) Rat skin tissue changes,
22) Koylu 2006, Melatonin modulates 900 Mhz microwave-induced lipid peroxidation changes in rat brain.

walter May 26, 2009

On Melatonin. There is, as you say ‘inconsistent’, evidence on effects of EMF on melatonin levels, but it becomes less inconsistent when long term exposure is considered, according to Professor Ross Reiter and Denis Henshaw.

Russel J. Reiter, PhD, professor of cellular and structural biology, has devoted nearly 30 years to pineal research and has become one of the foremost authorities on melatonin,

Reiter and Henshaw stress the difference between short term and long term exposure. They cite eleven studies here which in their words, show evidence of melatonin disruption

“In contrast to the volunteer studies with short-term exposure, there is now a body of studies involving either longer term or chronic magnetic field exposures which taken together show evidence of nocturnal melatonin disruption. These are listed in table 1…Overall, in table 1, eleven studies show evidence of melatonin disruption by power frequency magnetic fields and two by geomagnetic field disturbances. In some cases there is evidence of a dose response effect and disruption for exposures to fields below 0.3/0.4 μT.
[Do magnetic fields cause increased risk of childhood leukaemia via melatonin disruption?, 2005,

The evidence as far as long term effects from power frequency magnetic fields are concerned, seems fairly strong.

There do not appear to be many long term studies of melatonin involving mobiles. Thanks for these four (negative) links, two of which however seem to be short term. With such small numbers in the 3 volunteer studies, it would have been quite difficult to reach 95% statistical significance (only 38, 9, 20 and the last one unspecified, respectively). There have been positive microwave studies too.

The positive EMF studies cited in Reiter and Henshaw are in general larger and of longer duration.

Given also that mobiles expose their users to magnetic fields, it’s surely not safe to dismiss long term effects of mobiles on the levels of the cancer-fighting agent melatonin.

walter May 26, 2009

Hi Ed

Re: Blood-brain barrier studies, you say it is noteworthy that one positive study was later superceded, but again, there are many others.

I was therefore surprised to read this claim you give from AGNIR:

“Most studies in animals have not reported any RF-field-dependent responses on the brain and nervous system.. particularly with regard to changes in…. the permeability of the blood-brain barrier”

I believe this statement regarding the BBB to be incorrect. An online presentation Coghill “RF Radiation Blood Brain Barrier studies 1990-2004” gives the ratio of positive to negative studies (of effects of RF radiation on the BBB) as 9:2.

Likewise in a quick search I found several positive studies, only two negatives though there may have been an additional more recent one.

AGNIR cite “A study from Sweden” presumably referring to Salford et al. But this team has since replicated their results in several studies, with continuous microwaves waves and various pulse frequencies, and found a dose-response.

The Salford team BBB research:

Nittby 2009, GSM-900 effects 7 days after exposure, and dose-response.
Eberhardt 2008, effects 14 days after exposure, nerve damage after 28 days
Nittby et al 2008. Describes effects on BBB as “demonstrated”
Grafström et al, 2008. Histopathological examinations of rat brains after long-term exposure to GSM-900 mobile phone radiation. (1 year, negative outcome)
Salford et al, 2003. Nerve cell damage in mammalian brain after exposure to microwaves from GSM mobile phones (two hours).
Persson et al, 1997. CW and MW pulsed at various frequencies. Significant difference all levels. .

But the evidence for the microwave-BBB effect dates back much earlier. Richard Frey in 1998. “Second, the blood-brain barrier appears to be involved in headaches, and low intensity microwave energy exposure affects the barrier”.

Finally what about the fact that Russian studies in the 70s were reported to have established the BBB link? The Daily Express reported in 1999 that “…uncensored documents reveal that Soviet military scientists has successfully used microwaves of the type used by mobile phones to weaken the blood brain barrier. This is meant to protect the brain from harmful substances in the blood.”. The information in the documents are censored now though! Too late, cat-out-of-bag!?

Perhaps your information given on the effects on the BBB simply happened to be gathered at an unfortunate time point.. At any rate, it seems not to be valid nowadays. I’d be interested to know what you think about this.


walter May 26, 2009

Studies finding DNA damage from mobiles

Hi Ed. You say

“A very large number of papers have found that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from mobile phones do not damage DNA.”, and then mention two alleged ‘frauds’.

Given that many studies have found indirect DNA damage from mobiles, I’m not sure of the value of these points.

I’d like to mention these two studies that found DNA damage at low levels.

Garaj-Vrhovac 2008. DNA damage at ~6-8 v/m,
Naturforsch 1992. MW at 2 v/m suppresses repair of radiation-induced damage.

These are interesting as such exposure levels are increasingly common, even in the home. Also the suppression of repair of radiation-induced damage is a good example of an indirect mechanism by which low level microwaves can harm DNA .

One more, hot off the presses:

“Electromagnetic fields stress living cells”, Blank and Goodman,

“While low energy EMF interacts with DNA to induce the stress response, increasing EMF energy in the RF range can lead to breaks in DNA strands.”

The many other studies that found DNA strand breaks – well I’ll leave this to the experts. These from Microwavenews:

• R.J. Aitken et al., “Impact of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Radiation on DNA Integrity in the Male Germline,” International Journal of Andrology, 28, pp.171-179, 2005 (Australia);
• W. Baohong et al., “Studying the Synergistic Damage Effects Induced by 1.8 GHz Radiofrequency Field Radiation (RFR) with Four Chemical Mutagens on Human Lymphocyte DNA Using Comet Assay in Vitro,” Mutation Research, 578, pp.149-157, 2005 (China);
• W. Baohong et al., “Evaluating the Combinative Effects on Human Lymphocyte DNA Damage Induced by Ultraviolet Ray C Plus 1.8 GHz Microwaves Using Comet Assay in Vitro,” Toxicology, 232, pp.311-316, 2007 (China);
• G. Gandhi and Anita, “Genetic Damage in Mobile Phone Users: Some Preliminary Findings,” Indian Journal of Human Genetics, 11, pp.99-104, 2005 (India);
• J. Kim et al., “In Vitro Assessment of Clastogenicity of Mobile-Phone Radiation (835 MHz) Using the Alkaline Comet Assay and Chromosomal Aberration Test,” Environmental Toxicology, 23, pp.319-327, 2008 (Korea).

Many more on microwavenews link:
And more here,

As these must be upwards of thirty positive studies linked in total here, the issue of DNA damage from microwaves should not be ignored. As I said above, your amended statement that

“There is no consistent evidence that mobiles could affect our cells in a harmful way.”

needs further work, IMO.


PL Hayes May 26, 2009

“I would therefore have hoped that CRUK would have been more measured”

There is nothing wrong with Ed’s excellent summary and responses whereas you and one or two others here have, ironically, painted a grossly unmeasured and misleading picture with misrepresentation, exaggeration, unsupported assertion etc.

Here’s another very good overview of the subject by the EC’s SCENIHR committee who have also looked at /all/ the evidence and considered /all/ reasonable concerns and plausible mechanisms.

walter May 25, 2009

Ed, I have two major concerns about the information on this CRUK page.

1) In attempting to answer/dismiss the concerns about mobile health effects, you are seriously misrepresenting them in your responses about heat, power and energy when the concerns are specifically ‘biological’.
2) You endorse and link almost exclusively to official sources, even when they have glaring omissions, and when they ignore the concerns expressed.

1) Misrepresenting the concerns. You say

“And most importantly, so far no one has been able to suggest how mobile phones could cause cancer, and that’s been a big blow for the argument that they pose a risk.”

This statement is VERY wide of the mark. Many scientists have suggested plausible mechanisms supported by substantial research.

For example, you now acknowledge (in a post further down) the melatonin ‘hypotheses’, and you rather grudgingly accept what you call ‘small effects’ from oxidative stress (free radicals etc, that are linked to cancer). In addition, many papers HAVE reported DNA damage from mechanisms that are unrelated to heat and energy levels.

I would therefore have hoped that CRUK would have been more measured when discussing evidence. What you describe as a “big blow” (i.e. the absence of plausible mechanisms) does not even exist. It is disappointing that you appear to wish to make opponents appear foolish or ignorant rather than put their actual case.

You continue to maintain the misleading stance that the concerns are based on thermal effects related to the level of power. Despite it’s irrelevance to the debate, you hammer away at this straw man:

“Sure, the phone gives off microwave radiation, but it has millions of times less energy than, say, an X-ray and is not powerful enough to damage our DNA. Nor is the heating effect of this radiation large enough to affect our bodies.”

To re-iterate, the concerns are NOT based on energy/heating effects – but on indirect mechanisms like melatonin reduction, oxidative stress and indirect damage to DNA and its repair mechanisms.

2) Sources. Virtually all the sources that you quote are official bodies who, along with their colleagues in the industry, will bear a heavy responsibility should the proliferation of mobiles and radiofrequency devices emerge as the public health disaster that many predict. You would hardly expect them to be independent, or the first to acknowledge the evidence. The WHO, for example, do not even reply to people who point out that they are ignoring all of the peer-review studies report adverse effects from base stations (see post below). The MTHR report that you endorse calls (unbelievably) for research into mobile effects on cells to be discontinued.

Talking of whom, you say

“The bottom line Recently, a report from the Mobile Telecommunications & Health Research Programme which looked at all [sic] the available evidence, came to the same conclusions”
All the evidence? I don’t think so. I looked this report up from your link, and there is NOTHING about oxidative stress/free radicals, melatonin, or DNA damage. (Or the blood-brain barrier for that matter.)

It’s not surprising that an industry-based group might wish to duck the important avenues of concern.

However, I would have thought that, rather than unquestioningly promoting this report, Cancer Research UK would be asking why it ignored such a substantial body of evidence that relates mobiles and EMF to these important CANCER-RELATED effects.



walter May 25, 2009

Hi Ed. You say

“The evidence linking base stations to cancer is even weaker than that linking phones to cancer.”

Can you elaborate further on this ‘evidence’? Its certainly news to me.

May I refer you to the contents of a letter recently sent to the WHO:

“To date FOURTEEN epidemiological studies on mobile telecommunication base stations have been published and are referenced either on the EMF WHO database and/or on PUBMED.

Out of these fourteen studies:
· 1 is a mere feasibility study,
· 3 studies (20%) found no increase in the symptoms being analyzed while
· 10 studies (70%) DID find significant increases in the symptoms being analyzed.”

As I have seen many of these studies, which appear in peer-reviewed journals, I’d be very interested to know what your claim is based on.

Incidentally this evidence was sent to the WHO two years ago. The correspondent, a bio-engineer, indicated he has repeatedly made polite but unsuccessful requests to the WHO for a response. I mention this because in another response (to Eileen O’Connor) you say

“The World Health Organisation says, “Current scientific evidence indicates that exposure to RF fields, such as those emitted by mobile phones and their base stations, is unlikely to induce or promote cancers.””

They seem to be ignoring all the evidence that there is!

Also, when you refer to a “safety margin” – I really wish you would make it clear that you are ONLY talking about safety from thermal effects. These are (obviously) not relevant to discussions about non-thermal effects. Very few people believe the masts will heat them up, you know :)



walter May 25, 2009

Hi Ed.

You write “As before, studies have failed to find a link between mobile phone use and a variety of different cancers, as well as central nervous system disorders.”

You link to this paper “Risks for central nervous system diseases among mobile phone subscribers: a Danish retrospective cohort study.”

Just wanted to point out that the paper you link to actually did find CNS effects from mobile use.

It reports that the Standardized Hospitalization ratios (SHRs) “were increased by 10-20% for migraine and vertigo.” in both ordinary and long term mobile usage.

You will be aware that headaches and dizziness are frequently reported mobile phone complaints.