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Biomedical Research

Does Cell Phone Radiation Cause Cancer?

Cell phones are such a vital part of our everyday lives. Children need technology for school and adults need it for work. Virtually anywhere you go, there is technology present. However, studies show that cell phones can actually be a cause of cancer, and have detrimental effects on the body.

Introduction

“Don’t use your phone so much. It will give you cancer!” This is the phrase that parents love to use to scare children into putting cellphones away. Knowing there is false news on social media, people don’t necessarily take this statement seriously. However, cell phones can increase the risk of cancer. It is a difficult thing to even digest, but when it is closely studied and put under investigation, the results are shocking. 

84% of teenagers and 53% of children 11 and older own a phone. On top of that, some sources say that around 81% to 95% of adults own a smartphone. Technology has grown to be a vital part of life. One cannot live without their phone for a mere day! Children need technology for school and adults need it for work. Virtually anywhere you go, there is technology present. Though the recommended amount of time to use a screen is 1 hour,  people go way beyond that. It is also a known fact that radiation is bad for us, though small amounts will not harm us terribly. There is natural radiation from rocks and the Earth itself, and there is radiation from technology. Certain amounts of radiation can have detrimental effects on the body. Cell phones give off a certain type of radiation known as “non-ionizing radiation” and though non-ionizing radiation is usually harmless with small health issues, exposure to this type of radiation for prolonged periods can contribute to ill health.  Multiple studies have proven that radiation from technology does increase the risk of cancer.

Studies

Scientists conducted an in-depth study that cost around 20 million dollars in 2018. The main idea was to see whether rats reacted to cell phone radiation. “NTP conducted two-year toxicology studies in rats and mice to help clarify potential health hazards, including cancer risk, from exposure to RFR like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones which operate within a range of frequencies from about 700–2700 megahertz (MHz). These were published as Technical Reports in November 2018,” (CPRFR). The scientists “expose laboratory rodents to high doses of cell phone radiation over their entire life span and see if they developed cancer as a result. Investigators found what they called “clear evidence” that cell phone radiation could cause a type of nerve tissue cancer called a malignant schwannoma in rats. They found that 6% of the male rats exposed to the highest dose of cell phone radiation developed malignant schwannomas in the heart, while 2 to 3% developed gliomas in the brain. None of the control rats (which did not receive radiation) developed either cancer (Memorial).

The type of cancer which was found in these rats is deadly and very rare to humans. If cell phones can increase the incidence of the disease, it is something to worry about. The data is all pointing to cell phones increasing the risk of cancer. As technology advances, so does the rate of cancer in teenagers from 15-19 years old and it has been rising from the mid-1970s to 2012. This data demonstrates that using cell phones for an extended period is detrimental to the health of people overall. 

Along with that, another study was done on the effects of cell phone radiation reacting to a certain genetic variation in people. There is a particular variation called single nucleotide polymorphisms (commonly known as SNPs). This gene increases the risk of cancer in the thyroid gland. This researcher looked at 900 people and tested how their genes reacted to the radiation. 4 of the gene types tested showed that people with that gene are more than 2 times more likely to experience problems such as thyroid cancer. Examining a total of 176 genes, they identified 10 SNPs that have an increased risk due to cell phone radiation.

“Our study provides evidence that genetic susceptibility influences the relationship between cell phone use and thyroid cancer,” said Yawei Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health. “More studies are needed to identify populations who are susceptible to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) and understand exposure to RFR by different using patterns of cell phones.” According to the American Cancer Society’s recent report, there were nearly 53,000 new cases of thyroid cancer in the United States, resulting in 2,180 deaths. Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women and is diagnosed at a younger age than most other cancers,” (Thyroid).

Conclusion

These results clearly show that there is a strong correlation between the increase in technology usage and the increase in people diagnosed with cancer. When cell phones are such a vital part of our everyday lives, it might be difficult to cut it out completely. Reducing the amount of time we are on screens would be a good start. Though this is frightening, it truly is an important topic to discuss and more studies will be done soon.

Sai Datla, Youth Medical Journal 2020

References

“Thyroid Cancer, Genetic Variations, Cell Phones Linked in New Study.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 12 Feb. 2020, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200212121948.htm.

Edward T. Creagan, M.D. “Is There a Connection between Cellphones and Cancer?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Dec. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/cell-phones-and-cancer/faq-20057798.

“Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 5 June 2020, http://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/. 

Kamenetz, Anya. “It’s A Smartphone Life: More Than Half Of the U.S. Children Now Have One.” NPR, NPR, 31 Oct. 2019, http://www.npr.org/2019/10/31/774838891/its-a-smartphone-life-more-than-half-of-u-s-children-now-have-one. 

“Non-Ionizing Radiation.” Non-Ionizing Radiation – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, http://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/non-ionizing-radiation.

NRC: Natural Background Sources. http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/radiation/around-us/sources/nat-bg-sources.html. 

“Cell Phone Radio Frequency Radiation.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/topics/cellphones/index.html. 

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 20 May 2019, http://www.mskcc.org/news/do-cell-phones-cause. 

By Sai Datla

Sai Datla is a freshman at Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts. She is interested in the field of psychology and human life sciences.

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