Link between cell phones and cancer may be unjustified

A new U.K. science review says not to worry about brain tumors while chatting on mobile phones because "evidence overall has not demonstrated any adverse effects on human health."

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Are people endangering with their lives, risking cancer, brain tumors, and infertility by talking on their cell phones? A new review by the U.K.'s Health Protection Agency (HPA) says no.

Scientists conducting the review looked at hundreds of studies and assessed all major research into "low-level radio frequency," which they said comes not only from mobile phones but also TV and radio broadcasting, Wi-Fi, and other technologies, and concluded that everyone in the U.K. is exposed to "universal and continuous" radio frequency, according to the BBC.

Despite this constant exposure, the scientists said that they didn't find any definite links to cancer, brain function, or infertility. According to the BBC, this is the most expansive review ever on the safety of mobile phones.

"There are still limitations to the published research that preclude a definitive judgment, but the evidence overall has not demonstrated any adverse effects on human health from exposure to radio frequency fields below internationally accepted guideline levels," chairman of the review Anthony Swerdlow said in a statement.

All the research is based on the past 15 years, since mobile phones did not become widespread before then. The scientists recommended that long-term effects continue to be monitored and researched.

"As this is a relatively new technology, the HPA will continue to advise a precautionary approach and keep the science under close review," director of the HPA's Center for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards John Cooper said in a statement. "The HPA recommends that excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged."

The debate over whether cell phones are hazardous to people's health has been raging for years. In 2004, a Swedish research institute found that 10 years or more of mobile phone use could cause tumors to grow in humans. In 2007, scientists found that just 10 minutes of cell phone use can cause changes in the brain. And, last May the World Health Organization classified mobile devices as a "carcinogenic hazard."

However, in more recent years, several studies have come out saying that cell phone dangers might be overblown. Besides this study by the HPA, a 2011 Danish study said cell phone use does not raise the risk of brain tumors and another 2011 European study claimed mobile phones do not increase cancer risks in kids.

CNET has compiled the following charts to describe cell phones' SAR, or its Specific Absorption Rate, the measurement of the radio frequency (RF) energy absorbed by the body when using a handset.