For quite some time now we have been hearing and reading about smartphones being a cause of brain cancer and even though no real proof was provided, it has been able to drive fear and worry into our minds, actually making us believe that they actually do cause brain cancer. Well, you can relax and breathe a sigh of relief because I am here to let you know that mobile phones do not in fact cause brain cancer.
Most of the hype is based on assumptions and little knowledge of radiation, leading to quick and false conclusions about the matter at hand. But after precise, controlled experiments have been carried out by knowledgeable scientists and experts on the topic, a very vast majority have concluded that the case is not so and a few others say at the moment, there is no causal relationship between smartphones and brain cancer.
BUT WHY ARE THESE ASSUMPTIONS MADE ABOUT SMARTPHONES?
Firstly, anytime the word “radiation” is mentioned, it is subconsciously associated with a harmful health substance and we cannot be blamed for having this mentality because radiation causes a lot of harm in our present times. But the fact that goes unspoken is that there are different kinds of radiation and some are not harmful. On the contrary, radiation can be quite useful as we see in our microwaves. Yes, you heard me right; radiation is what is used to heat up your food. Doesn’t sound so bad now does it? Because we do not know there are different kinds of radiation, we assume all radiation is bad and knowing that our smartphones emit some form of radiation, we assume the worst.
Another reason many fear a possible relation between smartphones and brain cancer is that we use the mobile phones mainly for calls, which naturally necessitates that the phone is placed close to the ear, springing up more ideas that the radiation is penetrating through the head and meeting with the brain cells.
Lastly, due to our dependence on technology in modern times, we make more phone calls on the average than used to be the case. So spending more time with these radiating devices allows more emissions and greater risk of it harming our brains.
In order for you to understand that all these (while they sound like reasonable points to support the mobile phones causing brain cancer propaganda) are false, let me tell you a little about how smartphones operate.
HOW SMARTPHONES OPERATE
Yes, it is true that mobile phones emit radiation, but it is not true that they cause brain cancer. As I said earlier, there are different kinds of radiations and the one emitted by our smartphones are known as non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. The other electromagnetic radiation, which is Ionizing radiation, is the kind responsible for harmful effects. These are the ones that have enough energy to break electrons from atoms and adversely affect our DNA. I will not be going into much detail as this isn’t a Physics lecture but the long and short of it, is that the frequency of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation differ and that makes all the difference.
Ionizing radiation is seen in x-rays, cosmic rays, gamma rays, etc. which have enough energy to cause cancer by destroying DNA in our cells. Thankfully, the emission from our mobile phones is the milder, less energetic, non-ionizing radiation which has not been known to cause cancer.
Smartphones help us hear and talk to people by sending signals in the form of electromagnetic energy to nearby cell towers or base stations using radiofrequency waves. The radiofrequency waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation so they can do no harm to our cells and DNA. The non-ionizing waves can be of great frequency thereby having enough energy to heat up our body tissues as is seen in microwaves when they heat up our food, but the energy in our mobile phones are way lower than that.
There have been experiments and studies, carried out by experts and organizations to find out if indeed brain cancer is caused by smartphones. Some have been carried out in the lab, while others have been on humans. We will discuss the human studies first.
THE MILLION WOMEN STUDY
This was carried out in the United Kingdom with more than a million women aged 50 and above, to investigate and answer outstanding questions related to this age group concerning their health.
This included health factors relating to cancer, heart disease, stroke, and some others. It was carried out by Cancer Research United Kingdom and National Health Service.
The Study was carried out over a 7-year period and a lot of findings were discovered. One of those findings was that post-menopausal women who had not had hysterectomy were at an increased rate of cancer of the endometrium. However, they concluded that there was no link between mobile phone usage and brain cancer.
THE INTERPHONE STUDY
This was initiated as an international set of case-control studies and focused on four kinds of tumors with the tumor of the brain being a part of them. They were carried out specifically to determine if smartphone usage increased the risk of a brain tumor. These studies were carried out in over 7 countries including Finland, Australia, and New Zealand.
It was carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and about 50 scientists worked on the studies. It was concluded in 2012 with the findings that there were no increased risks of brain tumors with the use of mobile phones although they did mention there would still be more studies taken in the future.
THE DANISH COHURT STUDY
This study was conducted on the Danish (in Denmark) and included all Danes aged 30 and above. It divided them into 2 classes, subscribers of mobile phones and non-subscribers. It also focused on finding out if smartphone usage was a risk of tumor generation in the Country.
The study was carried out based on different sexes, adjusted for age in five-year age groups and calendar periods. It used Poisson regression models to estimate incidence ratios of cancer diagnosis of people with phone subscriptions and otherwise.
The findings were also consistent with previous studies and found no indication of increased risk of brain tumors with mobile phone usage.
STUDIES CARRIED OUT IN LABS
Scientists have also carried out experiments in the lab using rodents to try and determine if there is an increased risk of radiofrequency waves emitted by mobile phones on getting cancer.
The United States National Toxicology program experimented with rodents 9 hours daily for 2 consecutive years and found the rodent’s cells developed cancer. The results were inconsistent at best, and so weren’t enough to prove a direct cause of cancer. Also based on the lifespans of rats, the equivalent time the radiofrequency waves would have to be exposed to humans would be approximately 70 years which seems very unlikely.
A LITTLE CONCERN
Most of the experiments carried out proved that brain cancer wasn’t caused by mobile phones usage. However, it is important we note some important points. The experiments were carried out some time ago and mobile phones now have changed and they perform a little differently.
Also, the rate at which mobile phones are used in our modern times were not as much during the times of the experiments.
It is also worth mentioning that the findings didn’t conclusively say it was impossible, they just stated that at the end of the experiments there wasn’t any direct causal effect. This in no way means there never would be.
Lastly, most of the experiments depended on the memory of humans on how often they used their phones which might not be the best or proper approach to take.
On a large scale and to a great extent, we can rest assured that our dear smartphones are in no way looking to harm us. From all the experiments carried out and studies conducted, it is safe to say we are not in any real danger of developing brain cancer through the use of mobile phones. But there are some precautions we can take to be on the safe side.
We can limit the time we spend calling and do more of texting. Also using headsets and earphones will help reduce any radiation from getting to us. You could also opt for using the speakers to answer phones instead of placing it directly to your ears.
Based on the efforts of scientists and health bodies to investigate the direct causal effect of brain cancer from mobile phones, it is safe to say we are in no danger and risk at the moment.
Mobile phones are not responsible for brain cancers and we can rest easy and keep using our digital companions. Do not let anyone scare you and if any assumptions are made, they should be backed up with hard facts.
Brain cancer is real and has affected the lives of many people, but mobile phones are in no way responsible.