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Cell Phones and Risk for Brain Tumors

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I have been using a cell phone for a few years, but in the back of my mind, I worry about cell phone use and developing brain cancer. Am I worrying for nothing?



Dear Concerned,

The general conclusions from studies on cellular phones and brain cancer or tumors are that there is no relationship between cell phones and risk for cancer or tumors in the populations examined.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified cell phones as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" (also coffee is in this category for possible urinary bladder cancer).

Note that "possibly" is below the categories of "carcinogenic to humans" (i.e. tobacco, ultraviolet radiation), and "probably carcinogenic to humans" (i.e. diesel engine exhaust, Frying emissions from high temperature).

For more information on classifications see:

According to Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, WHO's classification of cell phones "means that there could be some risk, but that the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal, and needs to be investigated further. The bottom line is the evidence is enough to warrant concern, but it is not conclusive." (

One study published in the Journal of Neurology in 2005 on cell phone use and risk for brain tumors also showed no relationship. The study looked at two common types of brain tumors, glioma and meningioma, which account for about 75% of the brain tumors in adults (50% of the brain tumors in adults are gliomas; 25% are meningiomas). The authors examined all cases of glioma and meningioma diagnosed in Denmark over a two-year period and included a control group matched for age and sex. The authors concluded that their results found no association between use of cellular telephones and risk for these two types of brain tumors (Christensen, et. al., 2005).

U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) at presented several studies published over several years, and concluded that these studies did not show a link between cell phones use and increased risk of cancer. However, NCI cautions that it is premature to conclude that the use of cell phones is not associated with cancer. NCI points out that the studies have limitations such as the cell phones have been widely available for a short amount of time, and cancer takes a long time to develop.

If you are concerned about cell phones and possible health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers these suggestions.

1. Reserve the use of cellular telephones for shorter conversations, or for when a conventional phone is not available;

2. Switch to a type of mobile phone with a headset to place more distance between the antenna and the phone user;

3. For use in the car, switch to a mobile phone with the antenna mounted outside the vehicle.

For more information, go to the FDA website at