Can mobile cause cancer?
The human brain has a tremendous inclination towards finding an association. One won’t be wrong in saying that the foundation of our cerebral evolution was laid down on its capability to establish associations.
Could cellular (mobile) phones cause cancer? Patients often ask whether excessive use of these devices increased their chances of developing cancer in general, and brain tumours specifically? In all those years of “conventional” oncology training, because the evidence is so scanty, specialists are hardly ever taught about the association between cellular phones and cancers. Healthcare professionals spend most of the time thinking about either tobacco, alcohol, or genetics.
Cellular phones have practically existed for only 30-40 years, and have gained widespread popularity since the last two decades only. It has become an irreplaceable part of people’s daily lives, and now that human cannot (neither do we plan to) get rid of it, there’s a very basic concern. Is it safe for humans? As we dive deeper into our psyche to investigate its safety, we come to associate it with our scariest trepidation - the risk of cancer.
Cellular phones communicate with each other via radio-frequency waves. These devices are considered a very weak source of radio-frequency (a type of electromagnetic radiation similar to “cancer-causing” ionising radiation such as X-ray and gamma rays, but far less energetic). Considering how long we keep them close to our body, even these weak sources become significant biologically. The “radiation” they emit and their proximity to the brain form the basis of the suspicion that these devices may actually be a cause of cancer! These waves are absorbed into the body parts in the vicinity and may bring about detrimental changes. The true nature of these changes, and whether these changes could be a starting point of a tumor formation are still debatable.
Unlike the very energetic ionising radiation, radio-frequency waves are not an established, direct cause of cancer. Based on all the data that has been gathered from various studies concluded till date, almost all the agencies working on cancer have categorised radio-frequency waves (and thus cellular phones) as either non-carcinogenic or “probably” carcinogenic. This uncertainty in the categorisation is due to the lack of sufficient amount of data that is needed for a precise conclusion and risk estimation. As mobile phones are used by more people in the future, it is expected that we will reach an unambiguous conclusion in a decade or two. Remember, it took us over 300 years to put definite scientific blame on smoking as a cause of cancer!
Humans surely can’t stop using mobile phones and can comfortably put them in the category of “necessary evil”. But exposure to the radio-frequency wave emissions by some of the following measures while using them can be reduced by:
- Using it for a lesser duration.
- Avoiding using a cell phone when the signal is weak.
- Using it over speakers.
- Using headphones rather than putting it directly over the ear.
- Keeping cell phones away from your body when not in use (avoid keeping it in pockets).
- Providing children with a mobile phone as late in life as possible.
Making the call
Nevertheless, there is sufficient proof supporting cellular phones to be a cause of non-cancer conditions like anxiety, sleep, and attention, societal and cognitive disorders. The choice is finally yours to make. Do you want to limit cellphone use considering these already proven harmful effects? Or do you want to wait until it is established as a sure cause of cancer?