Can cell phone and wireless radiation cause cancer?

In 2011 the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO/IARC) designated wireless radiation as a class 2B “possible carcinogen” in 2011, largely based on human studies that found long term cellphone users had increased risk for two types of tumors—-glioblastomas and acoustic neuromas.

Since 2011, the scientific evidence linking wireless to cancer has significantly increased, and today several reviews include that the current body of evidence indicates cell phone radiation is proven Group 1 “human carcinogen”.

Although not all studies have found associations to cancer, many credible studies have.

Here are examples:

  • A  2020 meta-analysis found that cell phone users with over 1000 hours of phone use had statistically significantly increased tumor risk.
  • A French government study found people with a wireless phone usage of about half an hour a day for 5 years was associated with a statistically significant increase of risk of tumors.
  • Case reports and case control studies have found women who carry cellphones in the bra have elevated breast cancer risk.
  • A Yale study funded by the American Cancer Society found elevated thyroid cancer risk in heavy cell phone users with specific genetic susceptibilities.
  • Two large scale long term animal studies of the U.S., the National Toxicology Program and Ramazzini institute of Italy, found increased tumors from RFR exposures, and the tumor types found in these animal studies are the same types as those found increased in human epidemiological studies.


Bortkiewicz, A., Gadzicka, E., & Szymczak, W. (2017). Mobile phone use and risk for intracranial tumors and salivary gland tumors—A meta-analysis. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, 30(1), 27–43. 


Cardis, E., Armstrong, B. K., Bowman, J. D., Giles, G. G., Hours, M., Krewski, D., McBride, M., Parent, M. E., Sadetzki, S., Woodward, A., Brown, J., Chetrit, A., Figuerola, J., Hoffmann, C., Jarus-Hakak, A., Montestruq, L., Nadon, L., Richardson, L., Villegas, R., & Vrijheid, M. (2011). Risk of brain tumours in relation to estimated RF dose from mobile phones: Results from five Interphone countries. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 68(9), 631. 


Carlberg, M., & Hardell, L. (2017). Evaluation of Mobile Phone and Cordless Phone Use and Glioma Risk Using the Bradford Hill Viewpoints from 1965 on Association or Causation. BioMed Research International, 2017, 9218486. 


Carlberg, M., Hedendahl, L., Ahonen, M., Koppel, T., & Hardell, L. (2016). Increasing incidence of thyroid cancer in the Nordic countries with main focus on Swedish data. BMC Cancer, 16(1), 426. 


Carlberg, M., & Hardell, L. (2014). Decreased Survival of Glioma Patients with Astrocytoma Grade IV (Glioblastoma Multiforme) Associated with Long-Term Use of Mobile and Cordless Phones. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(10), 10790–10805. 


Choi, Y.-J., Moskowitz, J. M., Myung, S.-K., Lee, Y.-R., & Hong, Y.-C. (2020). Cellular Phone Use and Risk of Tumors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(21), 8079. 


Coureau, G., Bouvier, G., Lebailly, P., Fabbro-Peray, P., Gruber, A., Leffondre, K., Guillamo, J.-S., Loiseau, H., Mathoulin-Pélissier, S., Salamon, R., & Baldi, I. (2014). Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 71(7), 514–522. 


Davis DL., Pilarcik, AM., Miller, AB. (2020) Increased Generational Risk of Colon and Rectal Cancer in Recent Birth Cohorts under Age 40 – the Hypothetical Role of Radiofrequency Radiation from Cell Phones. Ann Gastroenterol Dig Dis, 3(1): 09-16. ​​ 


Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (European Parliament), & Belpoggi, F. (2021). Health impact of 5G: Current state of knowledge of 5G related carcinogenic and reproductive/developmental hazards as they emerge from epidemiological studies and in vivo experimental studies. (PDF) Publications Office of the European Union. 


Falcioni, L., Bua, L., Tibaldi, E., Lauriola, M., De Angelis, L., Gnudi, F., Mandrioli, D., Manservigi, M., Manservisi, F., Manzoli, I., Menghetti, I., Montella, R., Panzacchi, S., Sgargi, D., Strollo, V., Vornoli, A., & Belpoggi, F. (2018). Report of final results regarding brain and heart tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats exposed from prenatal life until natural death to mobile phone radiofrequency field representative of a 1.8 GHz GSM base station environmental emission. Environmental Research, 165, 496–503. 


Giuliani, L., & Soffritti, M. (2010). Non-thermal effects and mechanisms of interaction between electromagnetic fields and living matter. Library Vol. 5, 187–218. 


Hardell, L., & Carlberg, M. (2019). Comments on the US National Toxicology Program technical reports on toxicology and carcinogenesis study in rats exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation at 900 MHz and in mice exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation at 1,900 MHz. International Journal of Oncology, 54(1), 111–127.


Hardell, L., & Carlberg, M. (2013). Using the Hill viewpoints from 1965 for evaluating strengths of evidence of the risk for brain tumors associated with use of mobile and cordless phones. Reviews on Environmental Health, 28(2–3), 97–106. 


Hardell, L., & Carlberg, M. (2015). Mobile phone and cordless phone use and the risk for glioma—Analysis of pooled case-control studies in Sweden, 1997-2003 and 2007-2009. Pathophysiology: The Official Journal of the International Society for Pathophysiology, 22(1), 1–13. 


Hardell, L., & Carlberg, M. (2019). Comments on the US National Toxicology Program technical reports on toxicology and carcinogenesis study in rats exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation at 900 MHz and in mice exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation at 1,900 MHz. International Journal of Oncology, 54(1), 111–127. 


Hardell, L. (2017). World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health—A hard nut to crack (Review). International Journal of Oncology, 51(2), 405–413. 


IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. (2013). Non-ionizing radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, 102(Pt 2), 1–460.


Lerchl, A., Klose, M., Grote, K., Wilhelm, A. F. X., Spathmann, O., Fiedler, T., Streckert, J., Hansen, V., & Clemens, M. (2015). Tumor promotion by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 459(4), 585–590. 


James C. Lin. (2022) Carcinogenesis from chronic exposure to radio-frequency radiation.  Front. Public Health, Sec. Radiation and Health. 31 October 


Luo, J., Li, H., Deziel, N. C., Huang, H., Zhao, N., Ma, S., Ni, X., Udelsman, R., & Zhang, Y. (2020). Genetic susceptibility may modify the association between cell phone use and thyroid cancer: A population-based case-control study in Connecticut. Environmental Research, 182, 109013. 


Markovà, E., Malmgren, L. O. G., & Belyaev, I. Y. (2010). Microwaves from Mobile Phones Inhibit 53BP1 Focus Formation in Human Stem Cells More Strongly Than in Differentiated Cells: Possible Mechanistic Link to Cancer Risk. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(3), 394–399. 


Melnick, R. L. (2019). Commentary on the utility of the National Toxicology Program study on cell phone radiofrequency radiation data for assessing human health risks despite unfounded criticisms aimed at minimizing the findings of adverse health effects. Environmental Research, 168, 1–6.


Mialon, H. M., & Nesson, E. T. (2020). The Association Between Mobile Phones and the Risk of Brain Cancer Mortality: A 25-Year Cross-Country Analysis. Contemporary Economic Policy, 38(2), 258–269. 


Miller, A. B., Morgan, L. L., Udasin, I., & Davis, D. L. (2018). Cancer epidemiology update, following the 2011 IARC evaluation of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (Monograph 102). Environmental Research, 167, 673–683. 


Pareja-Peña, F., Burgos-Molina, A. M., Sendra-Portero, F., & Ruiz-Gómez, M. J. (2022). Evidences of the (400 MHz – 3 GHz) radiofrequency electromagnetic field influence on brain tumor induction. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 32(1), 121–130. 


Prasad, M., Kathuria, P., Nair, P., Kumar, A., & Prasad, K. (2017). Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: A systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes. Neurological Sciences: Official Journal of the Italian Neurological Society and of the Italian Society of Clinical Neurophysiology, 38(5), 797–810. 


Peleg, M., Nativ, O., & Richter, E. D. (2018). Radio frequency radiation-related cancer: Assessing causation in the occupational/military setting. Environmental Research, 163, 123–133. 


Peleg M, Berry EM, Deitch M, Nativ O, Richter E.(2022)  On radar and radio exposure and cancer in the military setting. Environ Res. 2022 Oct 21:114610 


Seze, R. de, Poutriquet, C., Gamez, C., Maillot-Maréchal, E., Robidel, F., Lecomte, A., & Fonta, C. (2020). Repeated exposure to nanosecond high power pulsed microwaves increases cancer incidence in rat. PLOS ONE, 15(4), e0226858. 


Shih, Y.-W., Hung, C.-S., Huang, C.-C., Chou, K.-R., Niu, S.-F., Chan, S., & Tsai, H.-T. (2020). The Association Between Smartphone Use and Breast Cancer Risk Among Taiwanese Women: A Case-Control Study. Cancer Management and Research, 12, 10799–10807. 


Soffritti, M., & Giuliani, L. (2019). The carcinogenic potential of non-ionizing radiations: The cases of S-50 Hz MF and 1.8 GHz GSM radiofrequency radiation. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 125 Suppl 3, 58–69. 


Vienne-Jumeau, A., Tafani, C., & Ricard, D. (2019). Environmental risk factors of primary brain tumors: A review. Revue Neurologique, 175(10), 664–678. 


West, J. G., Kapoor, N. S., Liao, S.-Y., Chen, J. W., Bailey, L., & Nagourney, R. A. (2013). Multifocal Breast Cancer in Young Women with Prolonged Contact between Their Breasts and Their Cellular Phones. Case Reports in Medicine, 2013, e354682. 


Yang, M., Guo, W., Yang, C., Tang, J., Huang, Q., Feng, S., Jiang, A., Xu, X., & Jiang, G. (2017). Mobile phone use and glioma risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(5), e0175136.



Can Wi-Fi and wireless impact the brain?

Studies find the brain is sensitive to wireless exposure. Scientists consider the nervous system to be one of the primary systems impacted by wireless and other types of artificial electromagnetic radiation.

Numerous animal experiments have also found wireless exposure damaged brain cells specifically in the brain regions critical to thinking and learning (Sonmez, et al; Odaci, Bas and Kaplan 2008; Odaci et al., 2016; Odaci et al., 2015Colakoglu et al., 2009; Saikhedkar et al.,  2014; Kaplan et al., 2010;Kaplan et al., 2009; Sager and Okus 2021; Meenachi et al., 2016).  As another example, a 2022 study, which found cell phone radiation damaged the hippocampus of mice, concluded “our findings suggest that 2400-MHz RF-EMR cell phone radiation affects the structural integrity of the hippocampus, which would lead to behavioral changes such as anxiety… it alerts us to the possible long-term detrimental effects of exposure to RF-EMR.” (Hasan et al., 2021).

Here are some studies to know:

  • A National Institutes of Health study made headlines in 2011 when it found cell phone radiation altered brain activity specifically in the brain regions closest to the cell phone antenna.
  • Yale Medicine researchers found prenatally exposed mice had poorer memory, hyperactivity, and altered brains.
  • A review published in Frontiers in Public Health found effects to several neurotransmitters in the brain, stating, “these studies indicate that EMR can lead to metabolic disorders of monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain, depending on the intensity of radiation exposure, and might in theory result in abnormal emotional behavior.”
  • A systematic review of the most recent two decades of scientific evidence published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found “significant correlation between EMFs [electromagnetic fields] and multiple changes in the electrophysiological properties of diverse neuronal tissues.”
  • Research on pregnant women has linked prenatal cell phone radiation exposure to emotional/behavioral problems and hyperactivity in their children.

There are numerous experimental studies indicating that wireless exposure can have serious neurological impacts.

  • A study on the brains of rats exposed to Wi-Fi signals (a type of RFR emissions) found impacts to the miRNA in brain tissue. The researchers concluded, “Long-term exposure of 2.4 GHz RF may lead to adverse effects such as neurodegenerative diseases originated from the alteration of some miRNA expression and more studies should be devoted to the effects of RF radiation on miRNA expression levels.”
  • Scientists from Afe Babalola University, Nigeria, exposed rats to a WiFi device and found the exposure increased the rats’ anxiety level and affected their locomotor function. The scientists also found changes in the brains of the exposed rat groups. The researchers concluded that, “these data showed that long term exposure to WiFi may lead to adverse effects such as neurodegenerative diseases as observed by a significant alteration on AChE gene expression and some neurobehavioral parameters associated with brain damage.”
  • Studies have found that RFR exposure can increase permeability of the blood-brain barrier, thus allowing more toxic agents to reach brain tissue.
  • Researchers who investigated the combined effects of the toxic metal lead and cell phone radiation have found combining these exposures associated with increased Attention Deficit Hyperactivity symptoms.


Studies in both humans and animals have linked cell phone radiation and wireless exposure to memory damage.


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