Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?

does your cell phone cause cancer?

For most of us, our cell phone is our “life support.” It’s no longer just the tool we use to make phone calls; it’s the place we check email, capture photographs, consume media, and browse the Internet. Has this dependence upon our phones become potentially dangerous for our health? Many researchers seem to believe so, claiming that extensive use of cell phones can lead to the development of brain tumors.

We’ve all heard the studies about how the conveniences of modern life may hurt us more than they help us, but what do the facts say when it comes to cell phones? There has been quite a bit of debate on this subject. Are cell phones safe? In order to grasp a full scope of the issue, let’s examine both sides.


Cell Phone Risks

In May of 2015, the city of Berkeley, California was the first city to mandate an ordinance which prohibited retailers from selling their phones without notifying customers of the potential of radiation exposure. Now, more than five states plan to follow suit.

According to a 10-year cell phone use and cancer study conducted by the World Health Association (WHO), a statement in 2010 claims, “a significant correlation exists between brain cancer and those who used their cell phone, WIFI, or wireless home phone for more than 30 minutes a day.”

Results of a Swedish study released in October of last year concluded that those who used their phones for more than one year “were 1.3 more times likely to get brain cancer.” For wireless phone users, that number jumped to 1.4 times more likely. Additionally, those who used their cell phones for an extended period of 25 years or more were deemed 3.0 times more likely to develop cancer.

Yusoff Zamzida of the New Straits Times, a Malaysian based English-language newspaper, breaks down radiation exposure by saying, “The postulation is that there is greater exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emitted by the wireless gadgets. The brain is the main target of RF-EMF when these phones are used, with the highest exposure being on the same side of the brain where the phone is placed.”


Opposing Sides

On the other side, many experts believe that there is no established connection between cell phones and brain cancer. A Danish study conducted in 2011, which examined more than 350,000 Danish citizens, resulted that “no association between tumors of the central nervous system or brain and long term use of mobile phones existed.”

Additionally, according to the American Cancer Society, a number of lab results suggest, “The radio frequency waves given off by cell phones don’t have enough energy to damage DNA directly or heat body issues.” As a result, some scientists believe cell phones are unable to cause cancer.

The debate about how cell phones do or don’t contribute to cancer is one that will go on for some time. Perhaps the safest bet is to take preventative measures to reduce our risks.

This interesting and informative video (shown below) does a great job of explaining why it is so difficult to design an accurate scientific study about the correlation between cell phone use and brain cancer.

More than five billion people subscribe to mobile phones according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Despite the risks, the majority of the world’s population will continue to depend heavily on cell phones in their daily lives. So what can you do to reduce the risk of developing cancer?


Ways to Reduce Your Cell Phone Radiation Exposure

The speakerphone is your friend – use it whenever possible to limit the amount of radiation exposure to your ear. If you must hold the phone up to your ear, try holding it farther away to decrease the amount of potential exposure.

Turn your cell phone off when it’s not in use – nip the problem in the bud, literally. If the cell phone isn’t on, it can’t do much harm.

Don’t sleep with a cell phone under your pillow or on your body – one woman is believed to have developed breast cancer after storing her phone in her bra.

keep children away from cell phones

Keep children away from phones as often as possible – children have thinner skull bones which makes it easier for radiation to penetrate their brain.

Don’t talk and drive – it’s harmful to text and drive, but it’s also harmful to talk and drive. Safety on the road is our first concern here, but we are constantly moving around when we drive which means the signal has to work that much harder to make contact with cell phone towers, thus increasing radiation exposure.

Purchase a low-radiation cell phone – if some of the habits above are too hard to break, another strategy is to purchase a low-radiation cell phone. It won’t completely erase your risk, but it can reduce it significantly.

My personal opinion is that the more a cell phone is used next to the head, the more likely it is to cause brain cancer. I recommend keeping usage to a minimum.

Photo credits:


  1. Dear Dr. Maxwell,

    Hope this message finds you well.

    With reference to the cell phone usage and ways to avoid brain cancer, why was there no mention of earphones ? Are they a good way to avoid brain cancer ? Kindly advise.

    Best wishes,
    Rayan Millard

    • Hello Rayan,
      You bring up a great point. Anything that keeps the cell phone farther away from the head is
      likely to be helpful!
      Dr. M


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