In past editions of BC Disease News, we have examined the issue of whether non-ionising radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitted by mobile phones is cancer-causing. When doing so, we have always referred back to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has repeatedly averred that there is ‘no consistent or credible scientific evidence of health problems caused by the exposure to radio frequency energy emitted by cell phones’.
To date, the only persuasive evidence to the contrary has been a 2018 study, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' National Toxicology Program, which purported to have found 'clear evidence' of carcinogenicity.
Given that this was an experiment involving rodents, many scientific experts have dismissed these findings because there is no proof that they apply to humans.
However, some members of the scientific community remain sceptical of the US FDA. Joel Moskowitz, of the University of California, Berkeley, is one such member, having been convinced that the Administration is ‘controlled by the telecom industry’, due to its alleged funding (either partly or in full) of a number of studies into the subject.
‘Significant economic ramifications’ for the industry, he believes, are the reasons why the US Government stopped funding research in the 1990s.
Despite these controversial views, Mr. Moskowitz recently pointed to a paper (dated 1 March 2021), written by Christopher Portier PhD, a former Director of the US National Public Health Agency (the CDC), which ostensibly outlined that there is a ‘high probability’ that mobile phone RFR can instigate growth of gliomas and acoustic neuromas (brain tumours).
Mr. Moskowitz is also the subject of a recent Daily Mail article for his University’s involvement in a research project with South Korea’s National Cancer Center and Seoul National University. Together, they analysed 46 different case-control studies into the health consequences of mobile phone use around the world (US, Sweden, UK, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand), sharing their observations in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Outcomes were by no means unequivocal, but when focusing solely on studies with so-called ‘high quality methodology’, they found a ‘clear link’ between mobile phone RFR and the risk of developing tumours. More specifically, they purport that spending an average of 17-minutes-per-day on a mobile phone over a 10-year period (or 1,000 hours in a lifetime) increases a person’s risk of cancer by 60%:
‘Many biologists and electromagnetic field scientists believe the modulation of wireless devices makes the energy more biologically active, which interferes with our cellular mechanisms, opening up calcium channels, for example, and allowing calcium to flow into the cell and into the mitochondria within the cell, interfering with our natural cellular processes and leading to the creation of stress proteins and free radicals and, possibly, DNA damage. And, in other cases, it may lead to cell death’.
Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, critiqued UC Berkeley’s ‘mixed’ results for having highlighted ‘important limitations’:
‘For example some [studies] were done in animals, while others compared people who already had cancer and asked them to remember past mobile phone use rather than tracking people over time’.
As such, she concluded that the ‘best scientific evidence’ still does not support the case that mobile phone use increases the risk of cancer.
Echoing these sentiments, a Public Health England (PHE) spokesperson stressed that:
‘There is no convincing evidence that exposure to electromagnetic fields has adverse health effects provided exposures are below recommended guideline levels’.
Whilst Mr. Moskowitz is certain of an ‘obvious’ link, the authors of the latest research have collectively admitted that:
‘Further studies using the exact data on the time spent on cellular phones are warranted to confirm … findings’.
With over 95% of UK households owning at least 1 mobile phone device in 2020, accusations that long-term RFR exposure causes cancer, albeit unproven, must be taken seriously. As a matter of precaution, the following interventions for reducing exposures have been suggested:
- Keeping mobile phones at least 10 inches away from the body (10,000-fold decrease in exposure compared to a distance of one-tenth of an inch).
- Using devices only when the signal is strong (they are programmed to increase radiation output when the signal is poor, e.g. in metal elevators or in cars)
- Turning off WiFi and Bluetooth functions when mobiles are not in use.
- Using the speakerphone function/headphones to converse, rather than holding devices to the ear.
- Switching to the landline ‘whenever possible’ to avoid mobile/cordless phone use altogether.
- Putting devices in pockets only when ‘Airplane Mode’ is turned on.
- Storing phones in purses or backpacks as a matter of habit.
- Sleeping with phones away from the head – preferably turning devices off, or leaving them in another room.
 Ryan Morrison, ‘“Smartphones increase your risk of CANCER”: Spending just 17 minutes a day on your device over a ten year period increases the risk of tumours by 60%, controversial study claims’ (8 July 2021 Daily Mail) <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9768315/Spending-17-minutes-day-mobile-phone-increases-cancer-risk-study-claims.html> accessed 9 July 2021.
 Choi YJ et al., Cellular Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov; 17(21): 8079. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7663653/pdf/ijerph-17-08079.pdf> accessed 9 July 2021.
 Anne Brice, ‘Moskowitz: Cellphone radiation is harmful, but few want to believe it’ (1 July 2021 UC Berkeley) <https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/07/01/health-risks-of-cell-phone-radiation/> accessed 23 July 2021.