The development of brain tumors from radio frequency radiation emitted from cell phones is a critical public health issue. Brain tumors cause significant neurologic morbidity and mortality. ABTA Statistics.  Cell phone and cordless phone use is increasing dramatically, especially in youth. The brain is the main target of these hand held devices which are placed close to the head. Because exposure to wireless radio frequency exposure is invisible and there is a long term latency period for development, the connection to brain tumors is easily dismissed. Basic science is showing non-ionizing radiofrequency EMR at low power can damage neural cells and cause DNA damage through reactive oxygen species and possibly other mechanisms. Many comprehensive epidemiology studies and long term meta-analysis now link cell phone use to both benign and malignant brain tumors.

Ipsilateral Brain Tumors and Cell Phone Use

Epidemiological data and basic science research increasingly support a significant association between cell phone use and ipsilateral (same side) brain tumors with long term use. Research from the Interphone Study Group (2010),  Hardell (2013, 2015, 2017) and Coueau (2013) have demonstrated a statistically significant increase in brain tumors with cell phone use over 10 years. The younger a person starts to use a cell phone, the stronger the association is. Their research indicates a doubling of risk with 10 years of cell phone use and with 25 years of use the risk triples. Statistical data now show an increase in benign brain tumors in the U.S., Sweden and Italy.

Researchers Call for Cell Phone Radiation to be Classified as a Class 1  Carcinogen

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, listed non-ionizing radiation from cell phones and other wireless devices a class 2B possible carcinogen in 2011, largely based on brain tumor studies.  Considering new scientific evidence researchers have called for a change in the IARC classification of wireless radiofrequencies from a Class 2B possible carcinogen to a Class 1 known carcinogen. Hardell and Carberg Bioinitiative Update

The Interphone Study

The Interphone Study was initiated in 2000 as an international set of case-controlled studies in 13 countries to assess the relationship between brain cancer risk and phone use. Many use this study to state there is no increase in brain cancer with cell phone use. A closer look indicates that with the highest user group there is an association. The World Health Organization (WHO) commented on the study, “the largest ever international study of mobile phone safety has concluded that the devices do not raise the risk of brain cancer, except for a possible slight increase in tumours among the most intensive users. ….. Biases and errors limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn from these analyses and prevent a causal interpretation.”

The WHO also notes that at the time of the study cell phone use was not prevalent. They state, “The majority of subjects were not heavy mobile phone users by today’s standards. The median lifetime cumulative call time was around 100 hours, with a median of 2 to 2 1⁄2 hours of reported use per month. The cut-point for the heaviest 10% of users (1640 hours lifetime), spread out over 10 years, corresponds to about a half-hour per day.”

Researchers in Cell Phones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern have pointed out fundamental design flaws in the Interphone Study as well as subsequent studies including:

  • selection bias
  • lack of consideration of “cordless phones” as equal to cell phones with regards to exposure
  • insufficient latency time to expect tumor diagnosis
  • exclusion of children and young adults in the study
  • exclusion of people who had died of their tumor or who were to ill to be interviewed as a consequence of their brain tumor.

Higher Quality, Independent Studies Show an Increase in Brain Tumors

This issue has been surrounded by controversy and other factors affecting the results of research studies have been investigated. Reviews of the literature on cell phones and brain cancer have indicated that the mostly industry-funded research found no increase in brain tumors, while almost all of the independent studies found a significant increase in brain tumors from cell phones and cordless phones. Five different reviews by Prasad (2017), Morgan (2015), Huss (2007), Levis (2012) and Myung (2009) indicate that the quality of the study and funding source have an influence on the results.  Blinded studies done by independent researchers gave consistent results with regards to causal effect of cell phones and cordless phones and brain tumors on the ipsilateral side after 10 years of use.

Research to define effects of radio frequency EMR on causation of brain cancer are complicated by shifts in phone usage, changes in device use, variation in diagnostic methods and reporting, latency for brain cancer development and need for robust brain tumor registries with robust data questionnaires on cell phone use as well as information on funding bias.  The weight of evidence may appear to be equal on both sides, however, taking into account inherent bias may shift the “weight of evidence” into a more precautionary perspective, especially for young people who will have much higher lifetime exposure.

The first court case won by the plaintiff was in Italy where they found that the excessive use of cell phones caused a person’s cancer. In the judgement the key element  was that the judge removed evidence from industry and only looked at the non-industry funded studies, all or most of which showed a positive association between cell phone use and cancer. Cancer Linked to Cell Phone Use 2017

Youth are More at Risk with More Exposure

According to the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA)  brain tumors are now the most common cancer in youth ages 0-19. (Ostrom et al, 2015) . A 2016 report by  emarketer ( )  reveals that about 75% of teens 12-17 owned a smartphone.  Redmayne in 2013 analyzed the cell phone and cordless phone use of youth in New Zealand. She found that in 4 years about 6% of participants reached the 1640 hour threshold that would increase the risk for brain tumors by about 3.77 fold.  She based this on the Interphone study results after 10 years of use and also looked at Hardell’s  case-controlled glioma studies.

NTP Study

The most expensive and most robust study from the National Toxicology Program at the NIEHS on cell phones and cancer in 2016 demonstrated an increase in schwannomas and gliomas in rat studies. These are the same types of tumors increased in epidemiological studies on long term cell phone use and brain tumors. Cancerous and precancerous lesions in the NTP study were found in 1 in 12 male rats exposed with none of the control  group developing cancer. DNA abnormalities were also seen. Some have criticized the NTP study, however, respected scientists, including the designer of the study, have provided information on how scientific research is conducted on lab animals and why this is relevant to human health.

Brain Tumor Incidence is Increasing

 Brain tumors are on the rise in some subgroups, according to recent statistical surveys. The data show that the incidence of benign brain tumors is increasing in the United States, Italy and Sweden. See a list of Brain Cancer Incidence Published Articles below.  Although some argue it is due to better diagnostic imaging and question that there is any elevation in incidence,  Paula de Robles (2015) states, “Based on our findings, we can conclude that there is a need to produce more accurate and comparable incidence and prevalence estimates of primary brain tumors across the world.”

United States: According to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, using data from 1988 to 2013, the incidence rates of glioblastoma multiforme has risen significantly among both non-hispanic white males (0.7% per year) and non-hispanic white females (1.1% per year).  Dolecek (2015) found that the incidence of meningioma, a non-malignant brain tumor, is Increasing in the U.S.  Gittleman’s analysis of  recent US cancer statistics in 2015 revealed in adults a significant increase in nonmalignant CNS tumors, in adolescents a significant increase in malignant and nonmalignant CNS tumors, and in children a significant increase in malignant CNS tumors.

Zada (2012)  reported data from 1192-2006 that  “Data from 3 major cancer registries demonstrate increased incidences of GBMs in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and cerebellum,”. Glioblastomas are the most common and most malignant of glial tumors.

 Italy: In Italy, the a AIRTUM Working Group, found  an annual increase of 1.8% in central nervous system neoplasms in the period 1988-2008, wihen both malignant and non-malignant tumors were combined.

Sweden: Hardell and Carlberg (2015) reported that brain tumor rates have been increasing in Sweden based upon the Swedish National Inpatient Registry data.  Hardell and Carlberg (2017) reported that brain tumors of unknown type increased from 2007-2015, especially in the age group 20-39 years of age. According to the authors, “This may be explained by higher risk for brain tumor in subjects with first use of a wireless phone before the age of 20 years taking a reasonable latency period.”

Hardell (2017) evaluated the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Swedish Cancer Register  data during 1998-2015 for brain tumors. He divided the groups in two categories, either  before and after 2007. There was a significant rise in incidence of brain tumors after 2007. He noted continued underreporting of cases in Sweden. Brain tumor registries have challenges which may cause inaccurate reporting including lack of pathology classification and lag time for reporting.

The Bradford Hill Criteria Strongly Point to Causation

Hardell in (2017) looked at the historical Bradford Hill Criteria used to evaluate hypothesized relationships between occupational and environmental exposures and disease outcomes. He applied it to brain tumors and cell phones, concluding that the evidence fulfilled the criteria and strongly pointed to causation.  The nine “aspects of association” that Hill uses are 1) strength of association 2) consistency 3) specificity 4) temporality 5) biological gradient 6) plausibility 7) coherence 8) experiment, and  9) analogy have been used to evaluate countless hypothesized relationships between occupational and environmental exposures and disease outcomes.

See also Physicians for Safe Technology Scientific Literature at  Oxidation Mechanism of Harm from EMR and DNA and RNA effects of EMR and Blood Brain Barrier Effects   and   Nervous System Effects

Tumor Risk Review Papers 

  • Use of cell phones and brain tumors: a true association?  (2017)  Beghi E. Neurol Sci. 2017 May;38(5):713-714.  and
  • Evaluation of mobile phone and cordless phone use and glioma risk using the Bradford Hill viewpoints from 1965 on association or causation. (2017) Carlberg and Hardell.   Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9218486
  • Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: a systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes. (2017) Prasad et al.  Neurol Sci. 2017 May;38(5):797-810. .
  • Mobile phone use and risk of intracranial tumors and salivary gland tumors – A meta-analysis.  (2017) Bortkiewicz et al. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2017 Feb 21;30(1):27-43.
  •  Meta-analysis of association between mobile phone use and glioma risk. (2016) Wang Y, Guo X.  J Cancer Res Ther. 2016 Dec;12(Supplement).
  • Mobile phone radiation causes brain tumors and should be classified as a probable human carcinogen. (2015) Morgan et al.   (2A) (Review). Int J Oncol. 2015 May;46(5):1865-71.
  • Mobile phone radiation: physiological & pathophysiologcal considerations. (2015) Sri KN.  Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 59(2):125–135.
  • World Health Organization IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. (2013) Volume 102: Non-ionizing radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
  •  Mobile phones and head tumours: a critical analysis of case-control epi studies. (2012)  Levis et al
  • Mobile phones and head tumours: the discrepancies in cause-effect relationships in the epi studies-how do they arise. (2011)  Levis et al. Environ Health. 2011 Jun 17;10:59.
  •  Cell phones and brain tumors: a review including long-term epidemiologic data. (2009) Khurana et al.  Surg Neurol. 2009 Sep;72(3):205-14.
  •  Mobile phone use and risk of tumors: a meta-analysis. (2009) Myung et al.  J Clin Oncol. 2009 Nov 20;27(33):5565-72.

Brain Tumors Published Articles and Review Papers

  •  Evaluation of mobile phone and cordless phone use and glioma risk using the Bradford Hill viewpoints from 1965 on association or causation.  (2017) Carlberg and Hardell.  Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9218486.
  • Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: a systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes. (2017) Prasad et al. Neurol Sci. 2017 May;38(5):797-810. .
  • Mobile phone use and glioma risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. (2017) Yang M. PLoS One. 2017 May 4;12(5):e0175136.
  • The intracranial distribution of gliomas in relation to exposure from mobile phones: Analyses from the INTERPHONE Study. (2016)  Grell et al. Am J Epidemiol. 2016 Dec 1;184(11):818-828.
  •  Meta-analysis of association between mobile phone use and glioma risk. (2016) Wang Y, Guo X. J Cancer Res Ther. 2016 Dec;12(Supplement).
  • Epidemiology of meningiomas post-Public Law 107-206: The Benign Brain Tumor Cancer Registries Amendment Act. Increasing incidence of nonmalignant meningioma in U.S. (2015)  Dolecek TA. Cancer. 2015 Jul 15;121(14):2400-10.


Brain Cancer Incidence Published Articles

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