Rodents and Radiation: What to Take Away from New Study Findings

Preliminary data was released today from two rodent studies by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), to explore potential links between cell phones and cancer. The studies have found high exposure to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) resulted in tumors in tissues surrounding nerves in the hearts of male rats, but found no link in female rats nor in any mice. As is commonly done in these types of studies, researchers used exposure levels that were higher, and often far higher, than the amounts typically emitted by cell phones.

The authors say the new data does not go much further than what they reported in 2016.

Below are comments from Otis W. Brawley, M.D., in response to the new data.

otis-brawley-potraits-5x7-2016

Otis W. Brawley, M.D.

“These draft reports are bound to create a lot of concern, but in fact they won’t change what I tell people: the evidence for an association between cell phones and cancer is weak, and so far, we have not seen a higher cancer risk in people. But if you’re concerned about this animal data, wear an earpiece.

“Perhaps the most important thing to take away from today’s news may be this line from the press release:

“The levels and duration of exposure to RFR were much greater than what people experience with even the highest level of cell phone use, and exposed the rodent’s whole bodies. So, these findings should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage,” said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist.

“The animals in this study were exposed at high levels for 9 hours per day. So while the link to some rare cancers are important, there is no reason to think this study reflects real life exposures.

“Dr. Bucher confirmed this in a press conference with reporters, and when asked whether the new data has changed how he uses cell phones, he replied that it has not, nor has he told his family to change what they do.

“Some additional cautions: as one of the reporters on the press conference pointed out, while some radiated animals did indeed have more tumors, in fact they lived longer.  Also, it’s far from a slam dunk to apply findings in one species to another. Also, these studies were negative for common tumors, which is somewhat comforting. It suggests if anything, cell phone radiation may (and only “may”) be linked to some very rare tumors. And newer, lower energy cell phones, and more cell towers are likely to make exposures even lower.

“A final point to remember is that we should not base our decisions or our point of view on a single study. When deciding where the truth lies, you really need to take all the available evidence into account. And in fact, most studies looking into cell phones and cancer are negative.”

About David Sampson

I am the director of medical and scientific communications for the American Cancer Society national home office.
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13 Responses to Rodents and Radiation: What to Take Away from New Study Findings

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