Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cell phone towers and cancer risk

A detailed analysis of some 1397 children with cancer between ages 0 and 4 evaluated the exposure of mothers to cell phone towers based on residence at birth of the child (see study). These children with cancer were compared to 5588 children born on the same day who were free from cancer. This detailed study compared exposures for a range of childhood cancers including brain, central nervous system, leukemia, non Hodgkin lymphoma and all cancers combined 1.

The investigators analyzed the data controlling for socioeconomic deprivation and the population density. The observed no significant relation between exposure and total cancer risk. Total output as well as power density from the transmitter were evaluated. In fact the overall association was null and showed little suggestion of any reliant for the subtypes of cancer. Further more there was no association between increasing levels of exposure and risk.

These reassuring data add further evidence that childhood cancer rates are not explained by this in utero radiofrequency exposure.

As the President’s Cancer Panel noted there is much concern in the community that increasing exposure to cell phone technology may adversely effect the risk of cancer in children. These data from a rigorous evaluation found no association between the exposure of mothers during pregnancy to radiofrequency from to cell phone base stations and risk of cancer in young children. A detailed review by the National Academy 2 of radiofrequency exposure reported no evidence for adverse effects at levels of exposure across a broad range.

How should one interpret this study of base station exposure in relation to other sources of radiofrequency? It has been estimated that one day’s exposure from a base station at an incident level of about 2-10mW/m2 corresponds to about the first 4 seconds of local exposure to the head and about 30 minutes of whole body exposure arising from the use of a mobile phone 3.  Theoretical concerns persist, however, about the effects on children. Given their size and the potential for exposure to add over a lifetime, it is still recommended that exposure of children to cell phones should be minimized.


1.            Elliott P, Toledano MB, Bennett J, et al. Mobile phone base stations and early childhood cancers: case-control study. BMJ. 2010;340:c3077.
2.            Committee to Assess Potential Health Effects from Exposures to PAVE PAWS Low-Level Phased-Array Radiofrequency Energy NRC. An Assessment of potential health effects from exposure to PAVE PAWS low-level phased-array raadiofrequency energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2005.
3.            Regel SJ, Negovetic S, Roosli M, et al. UMTS base station-like exposure, well-being, and cognitive performance. Environ Health Perspect. Aug 2006;114(8):1270-1275.

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