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Can EMF Exposure Cause Cancer?

Last Updated on: July 23, 2021

Reviewed By: Jessica Herzog, MD, FAAP, ABioM

woman holding phone with pink phone case

As people use more and more electronic devices, there is growing concern about the effects of EMF exposure, particularly that from cellphones. Check out what two studies found when testing the carcinogenic effects of cellphone radiation.

As the use of cellphones and electronic devices increase, many people are becoming concerned with statements of harmful electromagnetic fields (EMF) and their side effects, such as disrupted sleep and lack of concentration. One rising concern is that EMF exposure can cause cancer.

While there are limited studies on EMFs causing cancer, there are some that have found the possibility that EMFs can contribute to malignant (cancerous) tumor formation. Two 2018 studies in particular show possible carcinogenic effects of radio frequency radiation that occurs via cellphone use, which is the most common source of EMF exposure to humans.

Let’s take a look at what these studies found.

THE SETUP

Both studies tested the effect of radiation from Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) cellphone radio frequency radiation (RFR). GSM is a globally accepted standard for cellular communication, specifically for 2G networks. (1,2) CDMA is the leading cellular network standard in North America and parts of Asia. (3)

Both studies tested the effects of RFR in two separate time frames (28 days and two years) and both types of cellphone radiation (GSM and CDMA) within each time frame. Researchers also performed various toxicology tests, testing both red and white blood cells of the peripheral blood, as well as brain cells and liver cells.

The first study exposed both male and female adult rats. (1)The second study was slightly different in that it exposed female rats to the radiation during gestation and lactation. At weaning, both male and female offspring were exposed for the duration of the 28-day or two-year timeframe and tested for the effects of the radiation. (2)

woman in office talking on a white cell phone
Studies have found that EMF exposure may increase the possibility of malignant tumor formation.

THE RESULTS

Both studies found statistically significant results that pointed towards the possibility that radiation from cellphones can lead to malignant tumor formation, particularly in the two-year timeframe. These findings include equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity based on increased incidences of:

The two-year results from the second study also provided results that were less conclusive but may be related to the radiation exposure. These include incidences of:

  • Adenoma or carcinoma in the prostate gland of males exposed to GSM.
  • Malignant glioma or malignant granular cell tumors in the brain of males exposed to GSM.
  • Malignant schwannoma in the heart of males exposed to CDMA.
  • Malignant glioma in the brain, adenoma of the pars distalis in the pituitary gland, and adenoma or carcinoma of the liver of males exposed to CDMA.

CAN CELLPHONE RADIATION CAUSE CANCER?

Even though these are just two studies, the data shows potential that radio frequency radiation has carcinogenic activity. As humans use more and more electrical devices, they have the potential to be exposed to greater amounts of EMFs and increase their risk of experiencing negative side effects. Further studies are needed to reach more conclusive results, but with such a strong indication that EMFs may lead to cancer, why take any risks?

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