Hold the phone! Do cell phones increase our risk of cancer?

January 18, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Are you one of those people who always has a phone attached to your hand or in your pocket? A 2015 study released by Deloitte found that people in the United States across all age groups check their phone 46 times per day. That number does not include the amount of time we spend playing, talking and texting others.

Because we spend so much time on our phones, researchers are working to determine if there is a correlation between the amount of time we spend using our device and an increased risk for cancer.

Cell phones work by sending radiofrequency (RF) waves to nearby cell towers. Like FM radio waves and microwaves, RF waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation and give off low energy or low frequency.

Though RF waves do not have enough energy to cause cancer by directly damaging the DNA inside our cells, it can heat up our body tissue.

The amount of RF energy a person is exposed to depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The amount of time the person is on the phone.
  • Whether or not the person is using the speaker mode or a hands-free device.
  • The distance and path to the nearest cell phone tower.
  • The amount of cell phone traffic in the area at the time since higher traffic may require more energy to get a good signal.
  • The model of phone being used since different phones give off different amounts of energy.

Many studies have examined the use of cell phones and cancer. Currently, there is no consistent evidence that cell phones and non-ionizing radiation increases our cancer risk.

If you are concerned about exposing yourself to RF energy, the Federal Drug Administration recommends users:

  • Reduce the amount of time spent on the phone
  • Use speaker mode or a headset to place more distance between your head and the cell phone.

Researchers have also examined whether working or living next to a cell phone tower increases the risk for cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there is very little to support this idea due to the low energy towers give off when compared to other  types of radiation, like gamma rays and X-rays, known to increase cancer risk.

If you are concerned whether you have been exposed to RF radiation from a cell tower, you can ask a government agency or private firm to measure the RF field strength near the tower.

How do you limit your cell phone use? Tell us in the below comments.


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