Cell phones linked to brain and heart cancers in large government study

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published May 27, 2016

Key Takeaways

A long-awaited, $25 million government study has found cancer as well as pre-cancerous lesions in the brains and hearts of male rats exposed to cell phone radiation, according to a report released May 27, 2016 from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an agency of the National Institutes of Health.

“Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to radiofrequency radiation [RFR] could have broad implications for public health,” wrote the authors of the NTP report.

The studies found “low incidences” of malignant gliomas (in the brain) and schwannomas (in the heart) of male rats exposed to the two types of RFR currently used in U.S. wireless networks. (Female rats were not significantly affected.) The researchers concluded that the lesions found in the male rats were “considered likely” to be the result of the radiation.

Also, these tumors were similar to the tumors observed in previous epidemiology studies of cell phone use. “These findings appear to support the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conclusions regarding the possible carcinogenic potential of RFR,” the NTP report stated.

Americans spend an average of nearly 5 hours a day on smart phones, according to a February 2015 report.

Questions, doubts, and debates have been raging for decades about the risk of cancer from cell phones. The NTP undertook this investigation to provide more definitive answers.

In these studies, the researchers exposed thousands of male and female rats to whole-body radiation in custom-designed reverberation chambers. Starting before birth and continuing for up to 2 years, the rats were exposed to the radiation at periodic doses for a total of 9 hours a day. Rats that were not exposed served as controls.

The findings showed that the incidence of malignant glioma was 2.2% to 3.3% in male rats exposed to RFR, which was just over the incidence of 2% in unexposed control rats. Furthermore, male rats exposed to the highest level of RFR had up to a 6.6% incidence of schwannoma, and a 3.3% incidence of Schwann cell hyperplasia, compared with a 1.3% incidence of schwannoma in unexposed rats.

“This is extremely powerful evidence,” said environmental epidemiologist Robert Morris, MD, PhD, Senior Medical Advisor to the Environmental Health Trust, an environmental health think tank based in Jackson Hole, WY. “For more than two decades, many have dismissed cancer risks from cell phones because conventional understanding of the effect of microwaves would suggest there is no mechanism for this to occur. That argument is officially dead.”

The NTP report detailed only partial findings from its studies. The agency expects to release the full report in late 2017.

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