Myth or Reality: Mobile Phones Cause Brain Cancer

World Cancer Day is celebrated on February 4 in an effort to unite all parties involved in the fight against cancer under the common goal of reducing cancer worldwide.

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— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA)
February 4, 2023

The 5G network is on the horizon and has once again sparked the debate about whether mobile phone use causes brain cancer or not. Mobile phones do emit radiation, but so do all objects that use wireless technology. Whether it comes from television screens, Bluetooth devices or even hair dryers, radiation is all around us.

However, this radiation discharge is extremely low frequency, unlike gamma or nuclear radiation, which immediately destroys cellular structure. But the question remains: does mobile phone use cause cancer?

Telephone towers have become commonplace around the world. Even the most remote areas now have access to mobile networks and high-speed Internet. Additionally, the use of phones and other wireless technologies has increased dramatically in the last decade. This also coincides with the dangerous increase in cancer rates, especially in and above the neck region.

Many studies have also been conducted to find the correlation between cell phone use and brain cancer, but they have produced variable results. Read on to find out if the idea that cell phones cause brain cancer is a myth or reality.

How do mobile phones work?

The first handheld cordless phone hit the market in 1983. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000x revolutionized the communications industry. Today, the number of telephones exceeds the number of people in some countries.

Mobile phones work on the principles of electromagnetism and radio frequency communication. Unlike landlines, mobile phones, also called cell phones or smartphones, do not transfer signals through cables.

Mobile phones are made up of microphones that convert sound signals into electrical signals. These signals are modulated and transferred as radio waves to a nearby telephone tower, which sends them to a tower near the receiver. There the aforementioned process is reversed and communication is executed.

What is cancer and how is it caused?

Cancer is a disease that causes uncontrollable cell growth, giving rise to tumors that alter the proper functioning of the body. Genetic factors are the main cause of cancer, since it is a hereditary disease.

Cancer changes the structure of DNA, which can be passed on to subsequent generations. Other causes of cancer are carcinogens, that is, agents such as tobacco, radiation and asbestos, which damage DNA and cause mutations.

Why does radiation cause cancer?

All objects emit radiation, even more so when their temperatures increase. Even sunlight is a source of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, not all types of radiation are bad.

There are two types of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing. The main difference between the two is that ionizing radiation is extremely penetrating in nature. Even mild exposure to them can cause irreversible cell damage.

X-rays and gamma rays fall under the category of ionizing radiation, while microwaves, radio waves, and infrared rays are non-ionizing radiation.

Mobile phones and radiation

Mobile phones emit low-frequency, non-ionizing radiofrequency (RF) radiation. Although RF waves, like microwaves, are seemingly harmless, they carry energy and can cause burns and tissue damage when absorbed in large quantities.

But cell phones and other wireless devices such as Bluetooth headphones do not emit enough radiation to be considered dangerous. Additionally, the RF waves emitted by cell phone antennas are weak and weaken as they move away from the phone.

The greatest exposure to RF waves occurs during calls and when holding the phone against your head. The amount of radiation exposure also depends on the mobile phone model, battery level, distance to the nearest cell tower, and time spent talking on the phone. Nowadays, people of all ages frequently use mobile phones for long periods of time.

Do cell phones cause brain cancer?

While it is true that cancer is on the rise in the 21st century, so are population levels, pollution, unhealthy lifestyles and carcinogens. The sudden prevalence of cell phones should have caused a global epidemic of brain tumors or other cancers, but that is not the case.

But there is a mistake in that analogy. Cancerous tumors take several years to develop. Sometimes a person can have cancer and still live a healthy life. Commercial use of cell phones has only increased in recent decades, so it could take a few more years until the effects of cell phone radiation on the body are seen.

Still, several high-profile studies have been conducted to determine whether there is any link between cell phone use and brain cancer, but the results have been conflicting.

A study by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded in 2018 that rodents that were exposed to harmful levels of RF radiation (2G and 3G) for long hours of the day had malignant tumors in the heart, brain and the adrenal glands. However, only male rats were affected. Female rats and mice were not affected by the radiation. Humans are not rodents and have a high radiation absorption threshold.

Another important study on the subject is the INTERPHONE study. The study covered 5,000 people with brain tumors in 13 countries, but no significant link was found between cancer and mobile phone use.

So far, only the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US have failed to establish a concrete link between mobile phone use and brain cancer.

Bottom line

The opinion that mobile phones cause brain cancer is a myth. For half a century it has been claimed that cell phones can cause brain tumors and other cancers, but no study has effectively proven or disproved that idea. Furthermore, the increasing cases of cancer can be attributed to the increase in population and the increase in carcinogens in the environment.

However, this does not mean that you should not take precautions. Mobile phones can be harmful to your health in other ways. Try to limit screen time, headphone use, and frequent calls to protect your eyes, ears, neck, and elbows.

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Categories: Optical Illusion

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