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.

You will need

  • Facts
  • Precautions

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.

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.

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.