Question: Do mobile phones really give off a lot of radiation and can they cause cancer?

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  1. I talked about this on my radio show last Sunday on 3RRR FM – a Melbourne community radio station!

    There have been two major studies that have looked to see if there are links between mobile phone usage and cancer. One research team more than 400,000 people over 10 years and recorded their mobile phone use and health over time. The other study looked at thousands of people who developed brain tumours in more than 13 countries and asked them about their mobile phone use. In both studies there was NO increase in the risk of brain tumours with the use of mobile phones.

    However a couple of weeks ago the WHO put mobile phone usage in a category called Group 2B – which is for things that may “possibly” cause cancer, but for which there is limited evidence in humans that they are carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

    Other things in the Group 2B category include bracken ferns, coffee, being a dry cleaner and talcum powder, as something that may “possibly” cause cancer. So if you’re worried, you can use a hands free set and limit your call time, but there is only limited evidence to suggest mobile phones possibly increase the risk of cancer.


  2. Yes mobile phones give off a lot of radiation. However it is not ionising radiation, so it’s not the same type of radiation that nuclear power plants and x-ray machines give off, which can definitely cause cancer. It is electromagnetic (EM) radiation, which is the same type of radiation that your radio, your microwave, your computer and anything electrical gives off. Specifically mobile phones use a type of electromagnetic radiation that’s referred to as microwave radiation.

    The main hazard of microwave radiation is that it heats water. This is why you microwave uses it to cook food, it heat the water inside the food. As you may know, humans are mostly made of water so microwaves heat us very well, which is bad. If our tissues and organs get cooked, they stop working and there is some concern that this heating or repeated heating may increase the risk of cancer, but there is no evidence for that yet.

    The main problem with proving this one way or the other is that the risk of cancer would be in long term use and mobile phones have not really been around long enough that people have been using them for a ‘long time’. We really only know that 10 years of use is unlikely to cause cancer. Maybe using them for 30 years does cause cancer but we won’t know that for another 20 or more years.