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How to Understand Cellphone Radiation & Cancer Risk

Alarmed by news reports that cellphones could possibly cause brain tumors? Here's what we know so far.


  • Step 1: Understand cellphone radiation Know what "cellphone radiation" is. Cellphones emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation, the kind produced by X-ray machines, has been linked to cancer; nonionizing radiation has not.
  • Step 2: Understand a research finding Understand the classification of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which evaluates environmental and lifestyle factors for possible links to cancer. The I.A.R.C. classifies cellphones as a "possible" carcinogen, meaning it's not certain whether they pose a cancer risk.
  • TIP: The International Agency for Research on Cancer also lists coffee and pickled vegetables as possible carcinogens.
  • Step 3: Understand the confusion Understand why the I.A.R.C. classification is confusing. Some studies into possible links between cellphones and cancer have found a higher risk of brain tumors, while others have found a lower risk. Some scientists point out that cellphones have been in use for years with no subsequent increase in brain tumors; others say there hasn't been enough time to determine the effect on younger generations who began using cellphones in childhood.
  • Step 4: Play it safe Play it safe by reducing your exposure to cellphone radiation. Use speakerphone or a wired earpiece -- a ferrite bead will lower your exposure even further. Also limit the time you're on your cellphone while walking and when you have a weak signal; cellphones emit more radiation when they're in motion or far away from a cell tower.
  • TIP: Avoid wireless earpieces, which emit radiation right at your ear, albeit at lower levels.
  • Step 5: Stay tuned Stay tuned to new research -- the jury is still out on cellphone radiation and cancer risk. In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to talk less on your cellphone and send text messages whenever possible.
  • FACT: 85 percent of Americans 18 and older own a cellphone.

You Will Need

  • Facts
  • Precautions

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