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Cell phones, cordless phones and brain tumors

by Dr. Randy


Do we need definitive data to show the dangers of cell phone usage? If so, then we probably have it in a recent report issued from Sweden (Hardell, 2006). Researchers there have conducted the most thorough evaluation to date of the association between brain tumors and cell phones as well as cordless phones. The findings are disturbing and cautionary. A previous review of cell phone research revealed that nine published studies showed an enhanced cancer risk from cell phones with increasing risk for longer duration of phone use (Kundi, 2004).

This team of researchers in Sweden conducted two separate studies of patients with malignant brain tumors, then pooled the results. These studies looked at 2,437 cancer patients. Of those, 1,008 had malignant brain tumors. Then their cell phone and cordless phone usage were evaluated. Many of these patients had used these phones for periods of time exceeding 10 years with a cumulative use of more than 2,000 hours. A total of 2,000 hours correlates to 1 hour of phone use per day over 10 years. These patients were compared to 2,437 matched controls.

Results showed that cumulative lifetime use of analogue cell phones for more than 2,000 hours was associated with nearly 6 times the risk of controls. A similar use of digital phones showed nearly 4 times the risk. And use of cordless phones more than twice the risk. The risk of malignant brain tumors also increased with an increasing number of cumulative hours use of cell phone and cordless phones. And the risk was higher for both cell phones and cordless phones if use of these phones began prior to 20 years of age compared to first use at an older age.

The authors note that previous studies have often looked at a shorter time period from first cell phone use to diagnosis. This study examined the risk over a period of time exceeding 10 years. They also note that cordless phones deliver a higher dose of electromagnetic radiation than cell phones.

Mechanisms for the carcinogenic effects have been discussed for several years. They include the toxic effect to cell cultures exposed to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, which include DNA beaks, chromosomal aberrations, and the possible activation of genes that play a role in cell division and cell differentiation.

What to do

The only acceptable ways to modify this risk are to use cell phones and cordless phones less or not at all, or to keep a distance between the phone and your head. This can easily be accomplished by using a speaker phone. Children especially should take this precaution since the cumulative dose seems to have a strong influence on increased risk of tumors. Alternatively, the use of certain headsets will decrease your exposure. Conventional wire headsets may actually increase the exposure to electromagnetic radiation because the wire sends the electrical signal directly to your ear and brain. Wireless Bluetooth devices deliver more radiation because the wire is replaced by a transmitter and receiver. An air-filled wireless tube headset is the only effective type of protective device. These can easily be located and purchased through an Internet search.

Other precautions include keeping your cell phone away from your body. Soft tissue is penetrated by electromagnetic radiation more easily than the skull. Cell phones are constantly transmitting and searching for a signal whether you are talking or not. Do not keep cell phones in pockets or clips next to your body.

Operating instructions

Use the speaker on your cell and cordless phones. Do not hold the phone next to your head.

Use an air-filled wireless tube headset.

Do not keep cell phones in pockets or next to your body when not in use.

Do not allow children to talk on cell or cordless phones unless they use a speaker.


Hardell L, Carlberg M, Mild KH. Pooled analysis of two case-control studies on use of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for malignant brain tumours diagnosed in 1997-2003. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 2006 Mar 16; [Epub ahead of print].

Kundi M, et al. Mobile telephones and cancer—a review of epidemiological evidence. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part B: Critical Reviews 2004 Sep-Oct; 7(5):351-84.


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