ACS Responds to New Study Linking Cell Phone Radiation to Cancer

The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) has released partial results from an animal study of the effect of radiofrequency radiation associated with cell phones. The group found radiofrequency radiation was linked to a higher risk of two cancers. Below is a response from Otis W. Brawley, M.D., American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer.

“For years, the understanding of the potential risk of radiation from cell phones has been hampered by a lack of good science. This report from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) is good science.

“The NTP report linking radiofrequency radiation (RFR) to two types of cancer marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk. The findings are unexpected; we wouldn’t reasonably expect non-ionizing radiation to cause these tumors. This is a striking example of why serious study is so important in evaluating cancer risk. It’s interesting to note that early studies on the link between lung cancer and smoking had similar resistance, since theoretical arguments at the time suggested that there could not be a link.

“The new report covers only partial findings from the study, but importantly one of the two cancers linked to cell phone radiation was malignant gliomas in the brain. The association with gliomas and acoustic neuromas had been suspected from human epidemiology studies. The second cancer, called a schwannoma, is an extremely rare tumor in humans and animals, reducing the possibility that this is a chance finding. And importantly, the study found a ‘dose/response’ effect: the higher the dose, the larger the effect, a key sign that this association may be real.

“The fact that this finding was observed only in male rats has some wondering if the data is not reliable. It’s important to note that these sorts of gender differences often appear in carcinogenic studies, so the fact they show up here should not detract from the importance of the findings.

“This new evidence will undoubtedly factor into ongoing assessments by regulators to determine the potential cancer risk posed by cell phones. The American Cancer Society eagerly awaits guidance from government agencies, like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about the safety of cell phone use.

“The NTP was given the difficult task of trying to answer important questions about the potential cancer risk posed by cell phones, and the group did not shirk from its responsibility. NTP staff were clearly aware of the potential importance of this study and went the extra distance to ensure the best science is used. They used double the number of animals required for this type of study; they convened not one but three panels to look at abnormal tissues from treated animals to ensure that what was identified as a brain and heart tumor was indeed a brain and heart tumor; they solicited review from multiple scientists from outside the NTP to critically review all aspects of the data analysis and study findings, to ensure the findings would stand up to the critical assessment expected once these unexpected findings were released.

“While this study adds significantly to the evidence that cell phone signals could potentially impact human health, it does not actually tell us how certain scenarios of cell phone use change our long-term risks of getting cancer. For example, the animal studies were performed at very high signal strengths, near but below levels that would cause animal tissue to heat up. Additional research will be needed to translate effects at these high doses to what might be expected at the much lower doses received by typical or even high-end cell phone users. Also, cell phone technology continues to evolve, and with each new generation, transmission strengths have declined and with it radio frequency exposures.”

About David Sampson

I am the director of medical and scientific communications for the American Cancer Society national home office.
This entry was posted in Environment, Lifestyle, Prevention, Research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to ACS Responds to New Study Linking Cell Phone Radiation to Cancer

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  23. Susan Foster says:

    Thank you, ACS, for finally getting your head out of the sand.

    • I agree Susan. How much damage has been done by them NOT taking the proper stand. If a trillion dollar industry wasn’t behind this biological damage–then this would have been removed from the market already. It is horrific that it took them so long to even say anything about this. Children are being damaged and dying while they twiddle their thumbs. This is modern day tobacco and asbestos all over again–only tragically worse as it affects the entire population–even nonusers who are exposed to radiation via wifi, cell towers, and second hand radiation. I hope they wake up soon and come out strong against this exposure and reduce the limits too.

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  32. Steve Weller says:

    An excellent synopsis of the NTP report. I do however wish to make a comment regarding this statement “cell phone technology continues to evolve, and with each new generation, transmission strengths have declined and with it radio frequency exposures.”
    I think care needs to be taken when interpreting mobile phone exposures. As we deploy more towers in the environment mobile phone signal strength (which is usually adaptive) will result in lower power. However what has changed from early mobile phone transmission patterns is that mobile phones in the past only contacted a base station when making a call and occasionally to send “here I am” messages. Today smart phones have multiple antenna’s supporting communication via different protocols (Bluetooth, 3G/4G, WiFi) and we now have applications that are using these communication services frequently. This means our accumulated exposure is in fact going up. The brain tumour data from this study is important but there is evidence that suggests breast cancer may also be implicated (evidence is very weak at this stage but there is very little research being conducted to verify the strength of the link). Some women carry their phone in their bra’s and men also carry phones in their shirt or suit pockets (a recent study in the US found that the tumours found in a number of young women who were not predisposed to breast cancer lined up with the phones antenna’s. This could be co-incidental but it may not be. I think precaution is imperative and suitable warning notices displayed on wireless device packaging.

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  44. Nathan says:

    Very glad to see the ACS covering this very important topic. Sadly many people and organizations such as schools will wait for guidance from the government to heed this warning. And I wouldn’t hold my breath on government agencies taking action anytime soon. The FCC has collected ~$45B in wireless spectrum sales from mobile phone companies. The government is entrenched with industry lobbyist and industry funds much of their own research casting more doubt and confusion for the public. They are employing the same strategy used by big tobacco.

    We knew smoking was unhealthy in the 1950s yet major action was not taken by states until the 2000s with smoking bans in public areas and there are still a number of states that allow smoking in bars and restaurants. Banning smoking in public areas is a no brainer since it’s considered a filthy disgusting habit by most. Technology is cool so public acceptance that it can be harmful will be much harder to come by.

    I went to a start up networking event at Cornell University the other night and every single idea was around wireless technology. It’s huge now and is only getting bigger. One of the presenters stated that on average kids are getting their own wireless device by 4 years old. This is very bad news. People need to be aware of the risks..especially those with young children. I’ve done a lot of research on this topic and to me, allowing a young child to play with a cell phone is worse than an adult smoking in a car with the windows rolled up with a kid in the car. That’s a bold statement I know! Do your own research and you will most likely say the same.

    We’re all taking part in a huge experiment and for many we won’t know the outcome for another 10, 20, or more years. The effects of EMFs will only get worse as 5G networks are rolled out. I hope more coverage is given to this by the ACS and other similar organizations.
    For a good read on the dangers of EMFs check out Overpowered by Dr. Martin Blank.

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