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New study one step closer to linking cell phone radiation and cancer

Christopher Brown

If you were asked what the best place for your cell phone is, you might say your pocket. But a recent study has shown keeping your cell phone on your person may be connected to certain types of cancer.

This week on “Take Care,” journalist Dina Fine Maron shares the findings of this study. Maron’s article, “Major Cell Phone Radiation Study Reignites Cancer Questions,” appeared in Scientific Americanin May 2016. Maron is an award winning journalist, the health and medicine editor for Scientific American, and is a contributor to the publication's podcasts and Instant Egghead video series.

The study conducted cost $25 million and was performed on rodents, says Maron. These rodents were exposed to the same type of radiation emitted from cell phones (non-ionizing radiation) for nine hours a day over the course of their two year life span, according to Maron.

“The study presents the strongest evidence so far, that such exposure is associated with the formation of rare cancers, and at least two cell types of the brain and the heart of rats,” Maron said.

Several rats developed brain and heart tumors after being exposed to non-ionizing radiation; however, this was not consistent between genders. Researchers found that more lesions overall were found in male rats than female rats, and of those lesions more were found in the heart than the brain, Maron says. Since there were inconsistencies, Maron says it is hard to pinpoint any concrete evidence of how non-ionizing radiation could be linked to cancer in humans, but results are still pending.

“The issue is we don’t know how it would go about causing cancer—we don’t know what that mechanism of action would be,” Maron said.

However, something that has been proven is even when you’re not using your phone, it’s always emitting some degree of radiation, says Maron. So even though research hasn’t yet solidified that non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer, it doesn’t hurt to take some precautionary measures.

“Don’t keep your phone in your bra or your pocket during the day, put your phone on the desk, use a headset when possible,” Maron advises.

Maron also mentions the higher risk children may have when it comes to cell phone use and cancer.

“Their nervous systems are still developing and they’re more vulnerable to factors that may cause cancer,” Maron said. “Their heads are smaller than those of adults, so from a dose perspective they might have a greater proportional exposure to the radiation that is emitted by cell phones.”

Since they are younger, children also have the potential to accumulate more years of radiation exposure, Maron says.

Although scientific evidence still does not fully support this theory that cell phone use can cause cancer, it may not be a bad idea to start taking small steps toward lowering the amount of time you spend on the phone.