May 28th, 2008
12:09 PM ET

Cancer and cell phones

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent

Last night, I was part of a fascinating discussion on "Larry King Live" about cell phones and their health risks. (watch) To be clear, most of the established scientific community thinks there is no reason for concern. There were, however, some strong voices on each side of the issue, including neurosurgeon Vini Khurana from Australia. He is convinced, after looking at hundreds of studies, that not only do cell phones cause health problems such as brain tumors, but also they will eventually be considered a bigger health risk than asbestos and even cigarettes.


Now, I expected a staunch defense from the American Cancer Society, but instead I heard a more tepid response from Dr. Michael Thun. His bottom-line conclusion is that the studies that currently exist don't show any reason for concern – but – the studies aren't definitive in showing that they are safe either. Not exactly reassuring.

Over the last year, I have reviewed nearly a hundred studies on this topic, including the 19 large epidemiological studies. I urge you to do the same and read carefully to see what you think. Here is an example from a Swedish paper showing no increased risk of a brain tumor, known as acoustic neuroma. (see study) As you read the paper, you will find they defined a "regular" cell phone user as someone who uses a cell phone once per week during six months or more. I don't know about you, but everyone I know uses his or her cell phones much more frequently than that. So, just how reliable are some of these studies?

Furthermore, many of the studies published since 2000 followed patients only three years on average. And, even a Danish study that did have longer-term follow-up excluded anyone under the age of 18. So, what about children who will presumably be using these phones for the rest of their lives?

Mobile devices give off non-ionizing radiation radio frequency. This is different from the ionizing radiation of an X-ray, which everyone agrees can be harmful in large doses. The recommendation by the two neurosurgeons on the panel yesterday – Khurana and Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles – wear a wired ear piece. Even Bluetooth devices give off some radiation, although at lower doses. Don't carry your cell phone in your pocket; instead put it in a holster that meets industry standards.

What do you think? As Larry reminded us last night, it took a long time to develop a cause-and-effect relationship between cigarettes and lung cancer. Nowadays, everyone knows it exists. Is the same thing happening with cell phones? (more from Dr. Gupta on cell phones and cancer)

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (741 Responses)
  1. Cheddie

    Dr. Sanja,
    Respect you so much brother. Keep up the good work God bless you.
    Doc. I live in Toronto and just moved back from South Korea where I taught for 5 years. Prior to going to Korea in 2001 I never use a cell phone that much, but when I got to Korea I started using it every day.

    Since I came back to Canada I kept upp the habit, but now I feel a tingling always in my left ear. I am left handed and use the phone mostly in my left ear.

    Would tingling be a symptom of possible problem from the phone?
    What would you suggest I do? I've stopped using the phone for about 3 months now and I don't feel the tingling anymore.

    Also if you would like to do some test on me for your research, I would be willing to meet you for that and a time convenient to you and me. Just let me know.


    May 28, 2008 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. PBP

    Hello Dr. Gupta,

    As an Acoustic neuroma patient, I watched intently last night about the proposed correlation between brain tumors and cell phone use. This is also hotly debated on the Acoustic neuroma discussion forum website.... My concern is this.... we know acoustic (vestibular) neuromas are benign growths, yet, the discussions on last night's show seem to try to bring forth the relationship between malignant brain tumors and cell phone use. So, I'm a little concerned as to why AN's were noted (and you showed an MRI film of what looked to be a "large" - over 2.5cm - AN) when the discussion was primarily to focus on malignant brain tumors and cell phone use due to possible non-ion waves given off by cell phones (esp. antennae).

    Many on the discussion forum are in agreement with the panel on the show last night that longer term studies need to be conducted in order to show conclusive evidence that there is a correlation between cell phones and brain tumors. We also know that there is no known cause of AN's as well.

    Otherwise, the discussion from last night's show certainly held many AN'ers attention..... regardless of what we thought, papers we have read, etc. Thank you for helping to share many sides of the great debate.... as an AN'er.....I found it interesting.... enlightening... but most of all... still wondering was causes AN's. We may never know, but at least we know that AN's need to be looked at more carefully and maybe, with further long term research, the answer will come if cellphones (and maybe cordless phones) are a contributing factor or not.

    My best regards,

    May 28, 2008 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Alan from Texas

    I don't see how anyone can believe that holding a radio device right next to your brain isn't going to have some effect. We are just now learning of the effects of MRIs and CAT scans. It's just a matter of time before enough data exists to demonstrate the risks.

    May 28, 2008 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nancy

    What about the new "bluetube" headsets that work on the same principle as a stethescope and claim not to transmit any RF trhough them?

    May 28, 2008 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. cathy quenga

    My husband and I just listened to the report about cell phones and cancer concerns. We were wondering about land lines and are there any concerns about them. How do they compare and what frequency do they emit if any. But could you compare the two types of service and your health.

    May 28, 2008 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Leonore Gordon

    hi. I am very appreciative that you are addressing this issue.

    I applaud your candor in last night's Larry King interview, esp. as it applied to personal safety regarding earpieces. Much of Europe maintains the "Precautionary Principle," which you seem to adopt as well.
    I coordinated the formation in 2006 of the NY State Coalition to Regulate Antennae Siting, a consortium of such groups as Astoria Neighborhood Coalition, and many other neighborhood groups, as well as of state and local legislators working on safer antennae siting. We held a press conference at City Hall, 2/2006, announced by Congressman Major Owens's office, and attended by Councilman Vallone, Gentile, and members of the state legislature coommitted to legislating safe antennae siting.
    We have a web site, with the ironic title, safeantenna.org, which contains a "Hot Off the Press" link to important relevant national and international articles about cell phone safety and antennae risks. The research link contains links to numerous articles, as well, and I also try to keep a list of national and international resolutions and congerences, etc. on the topic on Ehi.

    I applaud your candor in last night's Larry King interview, esp. as it applied to personal safety regarding earpieces. Much of Europe maintains the "Precautionary Principle," which you seem to adopt as well.
    I coordinated the formation in 2006 of the NY State Coalition to Regulate Antennae Siting, a consortium of such groups as Astoria Neighborhood Coalition, and many other neighborhood groups, as well as of state and local legislators working on safer antennae siting. We held a press conference at City Hall, 2/2006, announced by Congressman Major Owens's office, and attended by Councilman Vallone, Gentile, and members of the state legislature coommitted to legislating safe antennae siting.
    We have a web site, with the ironic title, safeantenna.org, which contains a "Hot Off the Press" link to important relevant national and international articles about steps taken regarding cell phone safety and antennae risks. The research link contains links to numerous research articles, as well, and I also try to keep a list of national and international resolutions and congerences, etc. on the topicae radiation on EMF cell-phone and antenn. Please take a look. The information provided on my site has resulted in innumerable locales choosing not to place antennae on their buildings' rooftops. Are you aware that the Israeli Knesset banned residential cell antennae last year? The Collaborative for Health and the Environment sends regular e-mail digests on these topics. Perhaps you already receive them.

    There is a building on Eastern Parkway with 27 antennae from three cell phone companies paying one landlord for three leases and the Orthodox Jewish population there has appealed to me several times to help them, as they have a high cancer rate and many health complaints. They don't understand that doctors examining this issue need to follow HIPPAA rules, and would have to report on these complaints by disguising the names of complaintants. The Daily News nearly ran a front page story on them 2 years ago after going over there, but are helpless without tenants going to doctors for documentation. They also can't afford lawyers. Perhaps you want to cover this story?
    Please take a look. The information provided on my site has resulted in innumerable locales choosing not to place antennae on their buildings' rooftops. Are you aware that the Israeli Knesset banned residential cell antennae last year?
    New Zealand bans them near schools, as does British Columbia.

    There is a building on Eastern Parkway with 27 antennae from three cell phone companies paying one landlord for three leases and the Orthodox Jewish population there has appealed to me several times to help them, as they have a high cancer rate and many health complaints. They don't understand that doctors examining this issue need to follow HIPPAA rules, and would have to report on these complaints by disguising the names of complaintants. The Daily News nearly ran a front page story on them 2 years ago after going over there, but are helpless without tenants going to doctors for documentation. They also can't afford lawyers. Perhaps you want to cover this story?
    I am a 52-year old clinical social worker and mother with Parkinson's and feel fairly certain that my neurologist dad's lovingly spraying his trees each year in our backyard to protect them, factored in his and my Parkinson's disease. Thus, I take environmental risks quite seriously. Looking forward to hearing from you, Leonore Gordon

    May 28, 2008 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Robert Bauer

    Although the study mentioned only followed patients for 3 years, cell phones have been around for about 20 years. Currently, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of unilateral vestibular schwannoma are diagnosed each year. This amounts to about 1 in every 100,000 Americans. This rate of diagnosis has not changed in the past 20 years. Surely after 20 years of widespread cell phone use in our society, a link between cell phones and cancer would have been established, if there was such a link. I believe there is no such link, and that is why we don't see an increase in the rate of diagnosis for this disease. Show me the supporting data, and I will change my mind. Until then, this is all just white noise – which, by the way, is also safe.

    May 28, 2008 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Lee Neidow

    The intensity of rf emanating from a cell fone is minuscule compared to that radiated from the a 50 kilowatt transmitting antenna of radio stations on the air all around the world.

    TTBOMK, none of the engineers who have spent their working day and entire life in close proximity to these antennae have ever been known to suffer health problems of any kind from exposure to this extremely intense radiation.

    This current brouhaha is reminiscent of the concerns some people who lived under high voltage electrical transmissions lines used to have, but were unable to provide any scientific evidence at all that they were being damaged.

    As FDR once said, "All we have to fear is fear itself". Truer words were never spake.

    May 28, 2008 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Gita

    Did you say cell phones? Sorry I didn't watch your program. Oh my God, I use it sparingly. I have different ringtones for different people! So I know who is calling(as I have a very good memory plus am a singer, instantaneously recognize the caller from the ringtone) and accordingly pick up the phone.

    If I'm gonna pick up each and every incoming call, I will end up in a mental institution! Most of the calls end up in junk conversation. So I don't pick up the phone unless it's important/urgent. Rest can wait. Even if I pick up I cut the conversation fast saying I have work to do. I have developed mental peace/happiness and I don't like to be disturbed.

    Whether it's Bill Gates or some Nobel Laureate or Spiritual Saint, they all prioritise their time and don't indulge in unimportant matters.

    One thing I notice(based on my observation and my sample is small compared to the size of the world's population) is people who use cell phones too frequently, suffer from memory problems. They get agitated fast, impatient & restless. For the memorial weekend, I visited one of my best doctor friend's sister who works for a cell phone company and she erupts like a volcano for small small things in life. We were in the car and I told her that she need to take a right at the coming lights. She crosses 3 lights and asks me "where do you want me to take a right?" I told her "it doesn't matter now, You can take right anywhere!" My observation seems not that bad!

    Keep up the good work Sanjay. How about you, as a Doctor, wrt cell phone use on a scale of 1-10?

    May 28, 2008 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Yalanda

    I was so happy to finally see an intelligent discussion on the possible health risks of cell phones. I am one of those people who is very sensitive to cell phones, and have to use certain brands, else I get a serious sore throat, headaches, and a bit of twitching around my right eye. (Nokia seems to be the best brand as it doesn't leave me with as bad a feeling. However, Motorola is the worst, and don't get me started on those poisonous Razor phones.)

    Anyway, I've been telling friends and family members for years about the affects they cause me, but they always laugh, saying it's all in my head. And of course say that there are no definitive studies to prove that they are dangerous. I do believe that years from now, we'll discover that it is in fact the biggest health risk ever- worse than cigarettes ever were.

    My ex-husband bought one for my son years ago when he was 10 years old. I was totally against it, but relented as he said my concerns were not founded by Scientists and of course- no conclusive studies. However, it was around this time that my son started getting twitching in his hands, then his neck, and most recently in his legs and eye area. The twitching of his eyes & right hand have progressively worsened, and he sometimes has "marathons of twitching" as he calls it.

    I took him to see a Child Neurologist last year as it was worsening each month. They did their tests, but found nothing, and could not answer my question about whether his cell phone use could possibly be the cause. (*Note his cell phone use is very minimal.) And most recently, we've changed his use.

    Anyway, I will always believe that his cell phone use at such a young age has caused some damage to his nerve cells. What do you think? And is this something that can be reversed, or treated?

    Thank You,

    May 28, 2008 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ed

    Two concerns:

    The recommendation to use a holster that meets "industry standards" is kind of silly if the "industry" doesn't recognize the radiation problem to begin with.

    Second, the recommendation to use a "wired headset" is questionable as several reports show that the wire and earpiece actually act as an antenna and conduit that "transmit" rf energy up to the ear in some cases at higher levels than at the phone itself. My simple measures with an emf meter indicate that this may be in fact true.

    May 28, 2008 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. vincent masi

    if we are questioning the effects of cell phone radiation on the brain i would like to know what other biological effects they might have. most(?) people carry their phones in a pants pocket or on a belt. what effect does the non ionizing radiation have on reproductive tissue? i seeem to remeber that police personel were advised to not hold a radar gun in their laps becasue the radiation was harmful to reproductive orgains. woulfd that be the same for cell phones? how about he effects on pacemakers or vagal neerve stimulators?

    May 28, 2008 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Lisa

    I am so glad that this is coming to the publics attention. I had brain tumors 10 years ago and was convinced it was because of my cell phone. I had two very large tumors on the side where I held my phone. My phone would get so hot that I could hardly talk on it. I would remember having to tell the person I was talking to that I had to go because my phone was getting hot. My tumors were benign meningiomas. (The symptoms became apparent when I became pregnant and apparently grew larger). I hope that they continue to research benign tumors and make the public aware of the findings. I know meningiomas are common and are sometimes dismissed, but should also be looked at in this study.

    May 28, 2008 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jean

    Dr Gupta:
    I have been in the cell phone business for over 20 years. I am afraid to tally up all the years I have held a cell phone to my head. I would love to volunteer to be studied. I think if the medical community is serious about finding conclusive evidence about this matter they shoud look at me and others in my industry that would be interested in voulunteering for study. I have also recently developed severe pain at base of my head on the left side where I have been holding cell phone for over 20 years and my MD has sent me for physical therapy and said I have touch of arthritis. Please contact me at my email address.

    May 28, 2008 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dr. Raymond Phillips Sr.


    I am Dr. Raymond Phillips Sr. INVENTOR OF THE CORDLESS TELEPHONE. I do not think that ALL cell phones are dangerous, because when I invented the telephone, I followed all of the safety precautions to ensure myself that the cell phone was safe enough for even a baby to use.
    However, I do believe that some companies have duplicated my invention to try to advance it and did not follow the sam safety precautions as I did in the past.

    May 28, 2008 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Psycholgy Prof

    What this article teaches us is to study research design. The answers from an experiment are only worthwhile if the questions asked are well formulated. Questions such as: "What qualifies as high use?" or "How long, realistically, should subjects be studied before one can determine a definitive answer?" and "Are younger people, adolescents and children, with thinner skulls and developing brains, more at risk?" "

    The advice: use these devices in moderation and KEEP THEM AWAY FROM YOUR HEAD is probably a good one. My students are constantly on the cell. They even sleep with it on, often under the pillow. The younger generation has this obsessive relationship to these social technolgy items: cells, text messaging systems, and the internet. They think "MYSPACE" is private!! It's really scary.

    May 28, 2008 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. trey

    i agree with alan. i have always tried to text message or use speaker phone whenever possible. i think research will eventually discover the long term effects of cell phone use will be much worse than imagined, but i won't wait to find out.

    i understand that using a headset is the safer approach but what about people who are constantly on their ipod's or other music devices. i am a student at texas state university and i can't help but notice the amount of students who consistantly use headphones. i use one occasionally but on a very low volume because they often hurt my ears even with low volume. is there anything to worry about here? i can only guess that this portable music pandemic isn't helping the problem.

    Trey Evans from San Antonio, TX

    May 28, 2008 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Dina Ferreira

    I had a big tumor glioblastoma multiform Grade IV removed from my brain and I Know it was my cell and lack of sleep that cause it! You can almost see the shape of a cell. I've been asking for help to start a campaign to increase research in this area. I’ve been sending letters to several Congressman asking for a Bill compelling cancer centers, clinics and hospital To Collect tissue samples surgically removed and the history of each patient where the tissue came from and send it to a National Tissue Data Bank ! We need to have all the hospitals WORKING TOGETHER
    Dr Timothy Cloughesy, renowned UCLA neuro oncologist at Jonhson Cancer Center, said that UCLA researchers found a molecular signature, They saw different pathway that may tell them how to individualize tumor therapy. The first thing they must do is classify the types of tumors.
    Congress should provide funding for these hospitals, clinics and cancer centers that would produce these tissue samples, to cover the cost of collecting, preparing and depositing the cryo set-up (frozen tissue samples) in a Tissue Data Bank for researches to analyze.
    According to Dr Albert Lai, neuro oncologist at UCLA, with more tissues collected it would be faster to classify and categorize tumors. In this way researchers will know what kind of treatment to prescribe to the patient. Without a doubt, mandatory tissue collection and the National or State Tissue Data Bank would save researches precious time in finding a cure and save countless lives.

    We must find hope. We must help the doctors and research places.
    I want to be able to plan for my future

    Pasadena CA (Dina)

    May 28, 2008 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Scott

    I think cell phones are fine for brief periods....tell someone you are late, on your way, safe, when you want to meet, etc..

    Dont use them to sit around chatting about gossip, or to pass the time on your commute home.

    I see people in long lines, or shopping just yacking about things that are not that important.

    Use them for brief conversations and get to the point and then hang up and if you want to talk to someone longer, wait until you are home.

    May 28, 2008 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. marne

    Dr. Gupta,
    Thank you for your comments. It is so important that people become aware of the potential hazards of cell phone use, as their children are being marketed to, and "everybody's doing it" creates a cloud of false security.

    I know scientists, including medical doctors, must be very careful about how they speak when there is still some uncertainty involved, even when the yellow flags are waving wildly. Nobody wants to alarm the public needlessly, and, beyond that, no one wants to get the Big Giant upset.

    The Big Giant, the telecom industry, has said publicly that "more research is needed," but I have spent over 48 hours in international committee meetings with the chief industry people involved in this issue, and I can tell you first hand, in the safety of their meetings, they declare that they think this research is foolish and wasteful, and they want to see the research stop. Indeed, they have succeeded in stopping virtually all the independent research in the US, and making it nearly impossible for researchers in other countries to follow up on results of concern. I know many of the research scientists working in the field, both around the world and in our country, and they are poised to do important studies–studies we ALL would want them to do– but they cannot get funding.

    There is clearly obstructionism going on.

    We would know a LOT more about wireless radiation effects right now if those leading independent researchers had had their study proposals funded. Instead, industry has belittled them and chosen its own researchers and projects in order to tip the "weight of evidence" in a no-effects direction.

    If you want to have an impact on this issue, please keep educating the public, and use your influence to encourage funders to take a deep look at the studies, and fund independent-non-industry sponsored or influenced-research.

    As I was once told by a former California Senator who had wrangled with them, the telecom industry has no motivation to be straightforward about this issue. The stakes in terms of liability and financial loss are just too high.

    But there are other stakes involved-and we'd better pay attention to them.

    May 28, 2008 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. AHE

    As a graduate student completing my MPH in epidemiology, I have spent a great deal of time researching the association between cellular phone use & brain tumors. First, it is painfully apparent that the Interphone Study was designed to fail in detecting an association between cellular phone use & tumors. This is evident for a number of reasons including their definition of regular use & their total disregard for the effects of cordless phone use (which has been shown to be associated with tumor development in a few studies by Hardell et al.). There were a number of other issues plaguing the INTERPHONE study results but for sake of space, I won't address all of them here....

    Aside from their flawed design, the INTERPHONE researchers did observe significantly positive associations between cellular phone use & brain tumors. Though the odds ratios & confidence intervals indicated statistically significant & positive results they were either completely omitted in the discussion of their articles or attributed to chance or bias. The fact that there was little to no adknowledgement that their findings may in fact be real, raises some questions about the purpose of their study in the first place....

    What is important to understand is that when people refer to the breadth of evidence indicating no association between cellular phone use & brain tumors they are referring to the results from these Interphone studies, which are conducted through the WHO but are funded substantially by the cellular phone industry......

    In regards to last night on Larry King Live, the CTIA declined to participate but "...referred to us the American Cancer Society...". This, in my opinion, is an appalling conflict of interest. Why is a reputable organization, such as the American Cancer Society, speaking on behalf of a mulitbillion dollar industry, which clearly has a vested interest in this issue?? Furthermore, Dr. Michael Thun from the American Cancer Society, was the only panel member that was steadfast in his dismissal of any association between cellular phone use & brain cancer- coincidence??

    May 28, 2008 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Katie Bland

    This is a big concern to me. As the parent of 2 grown children that seem to have a cell phone glued to the side of their heads constantly, I am very concerned that it is causing harm.
    I'm still fighting the tanning bed fight, and have just started the cell phone fight. That one goes "Now, tell me again what I'm suppose to tell your kids when they are standing beside me at your coffin because you got cancer or microwaved your insides in the tanning bed?..wait I remember, "It was more important for your parent to have a smooth all over tan, than to see you grow up"...
    Tobacco was of no concern for years, neither was x-rays, MRI, certain drugs.
    I'm sure cell phones are safe when used scarcely, but the way people use them today, it can not possibly be safe. Does the FDA have any say in whether the cell phones are safe to use?

    May 28, 2008 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. P

    Dr. Gupta,
    First, let me say I always try to watch anytime you're on TV. I truly value you & your dedication. Mr. King's topic last night upset me once more regarding cell phones usage. I worked over 25 years as a customer service rep for a phone company. We used regular corded phones, then after many years, ear-pieces. I was one of first in my office to get a cell phone, car mount. After a few years, I found a large lump on my left shoulder, near neck, & one under my left arm. I just knew was breast cancer. GYN & surgeon said were/are lipomas. When I retired, my mammograms started being abnormal. (3) biopsies in last 7 years, benign, but we watch & check. I've always strongly felt my work & cell phone usage caused these problems. I refuse to use a cell phone, but my husband insists for safety. Regardless of the various studies, I firmly believe that "I know" why this has happened to me. We certainly need more unbiased studies, answers, & we need them yesterday. Thank you if you get to read my comment.

    May 28, 2008 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Alison Rall

    Hello Dr. Gupta,

    I was very interested in the program on the Larry King Live show on the relation between cancer and cellphones.

    I was actually hoping that mention would be made connecting cellphone towers as well as cellphones to health problems such as cancers.

    Our family was severely impacted when a cellphone tower was constructed near our dairy farm in Ohio. We experienced birth defects in our livestock as well as metabolic changes, skin changes, and joint deterioration.

    Over the course of eight years we were able to gather information and communicate with research scientists, doctors, and other lay people experiencing similar problems.

    We attempted resolving the problem with the cellphone company and were helpful to other townships in preventing the construction of towers in residential areas. It is unfortunate that towers are constructed on the basis of the number of subscribers without regard to their impact on those living near them.

    We have chosen not to subscribe and cause others harm. It seems selfish at the very least to be protective by wearing an ear-piece when others are still being harmed by the influence of actual cell towers that exist for the convenience of the users.

    That farm has sat unoccupied for the past eleven years. We are unable to have livestock or humans living there and we paid a very large price in the health of several of our family members, particularly our youngest son.

    There is plenty of evidence available to indicate that cell phone towers as well as cell phones are indeed a hazard to health. If you would like to know further details concerning our own personal story or others with more research please contact us. My e-mail address is alisonrall@yahoo.com

    Thank you for your interest in this matter. It is encouraging to see this issue finally being brought to the public's attention.

    – Alison Rall

    May 28, 2008 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Grace

    Dr. Gupta,

    You urge readers to "do the same and read carefully to see what you think" by reviewing some of the hundreds of studies on the topic and the 19 epidemiological studies. I agree that one has to do this to form one's own idea, but assuming that most of your blog readers have not studied research methods nor the basic sciences at a graduate or undergraduate level, what sort of guidance can you give readers of different backgrounds as to what to read? Also, assuming most people don't have time to review hundreds of studies, where should one go to find the best studies to read?

    Regarding epidemiological studies, here are some reasons why they don't tell us much. First, how much information can an epidemiological study provide for a behavior that has been around for less than a decade? What if it takes longer for the cumulative ill health effects? I was living on a college campus at the time and cell phones only just started appearing in people's hands in widespread use in the year 2000 even among the college kids of the Silicon Valley.

    (Pardon the tangent, but this reminds me of epidemiological studies of autism where the age cohorts of children being studied are younger than the usual age of diagnosis. Ie. the Denmark study where the children in the study were age range 1 to 9. Searching other sources shows wide ranging reports of average diagnosis from a low end average age of 2 to a high end average of 8 years, with autistic spectrum disorders such as Asperger's being diagnosed even later. The woman with autism you profiled on this blog was diagnosed at age 14 if I recall correctly.)

    Secondly, if the studies are like the example you gave, the topic of each study is so narrow (the example study is on acoustic neuroma), then how many studies would need to be done to gather any reasonable amount of data to study the effects of something that is unknown? We have separate studies on cell phones and different types of brain tumors, ADHD, male sperm count, etc. which are all over the map. With these study methods, we'd need to have 10,000 studies just to scratch the surface of health conditions 1 to 10,000 in relation to cell phone usage.

    May 28, 2008 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ben

    It's interesting to note that no insurer will cover cell phone companies for future class-action lawsuits related to health risks. Clearly there is some nervousness about it.

    May 29, 2008 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. David Tornheim

    Thank you from bringing this important matter to light–a real concern that has not seen enough coverage. Most people mistakenly feel that cell phones are 100% safe, or respond, "Well, I'm gonna die anyway," meaning, "If there is a risk, it's so small, I can disregard it entirely."

    Although you did cover a lot, here are some other important points:

    1) Studies showing no health effect from cell phones and antennas are largely funded by the wireless industry or U.S. Air Force, whereas the studies showing significant effects tend to be independently funded.

    See: http://www.microwavenews.com/RR.html "A clear —and disconcerting— pattern emerges: 32 of the 35 studies that were paid for by the mobile phone industry and the U.S. Air Force show no effect. They make up more than 75% of all the negative studies."

    See also:
    Source of Funding and Results of Studies of Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use: Systematic Review of Experimental Studies,
    Huss, et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 115, No. 1, January 2007

    2) Cell phone and other Wireless antennas (e.g. WiFi) are also a cause for concern. People who don't use cell phones are exposed to them. A number of European Studies show significant effects. See for example:

    Survey Study of People Living in the Vicinity of Cellular Phone Base Stations

    Santini et al., Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 41-49, 2003.

    This study and five others can be found at this site:
    –> http://www.antennafreeunion.org/info_evidence.htm

    3) The FCC regulates cell phones and cell phone antennas entirely by thermal effects. However, papers cited at http://www.antennafreeunion.org/info_evidence.htm show evidence of non-thermal effects. Other countries have much stricter standards than the U.S. Most likely it is the FCC standards that govern the cell phone usage recommendation (e.g. keeping it at a distance from the ear, using the holster, etc.) rather than an admission by the manufactures that these devices are of any substantial health concern, something they vigorously deny–just like the Tobacco industry did.

    4) The federal government, after intense lobbying by the wireless industry, has legislated that localities can not stop a cell phone antenna on the basis of health concerns if FCC guidelines (see 3 above) are met. See: http://www.cell-out.org/TCA704.html

    -David Tornheim

    May 29, 2008 at 00:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Kim in NY

    Sounds like vaccines and autism.... No scientific proof, but those of us raising autistic children know where and when it happened.

    Cell phones are dangerous anyway. People driving holding them on their ear. Walking around not paying attention to whom they are bumping into, and just plain rude..... movies, restaurants, on line at stores. Does anybody really need to be that connected? (Okay, maybe a surgeon.)
    What can't wait until we get home. Three people have my cell phone number, my husband and my two kids. Everybody else can wait.

    May 29, 2008 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Granny J

    Dr. Gupta:

    I have two sons who have had acoustic neuromas – probably 8-10 years ago now – and both are heavy cell phone users. Their neurosurgeon found it EXTRAordinary that two brothers would both have acoustic neuromas. More research certainly needs to be done.

    May 29, 2008 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Larry from Michigan

    Yes I firmly believe there is a health risk to cell phone use. I am very happy and proud of you Dr Gupta, to see a mainstream media Doctor challenge a very strong money making business such as the cell phone industry. I strongly believe they will use a lot of money to slant studies in their favor. I strongly agree with Alan from Texas when he states how it's hard to not believe the negative effects. Hold your cell phone against an alarm clock radio while it's playing an AM station....here the interference. Our cells and body are completely a flow of electical impulses down to an atomic level and if you think putting a strong electrical field that close to your head for hours per week is not going to do damage than I believe you are wrong. The worse news is that it does not stop with cell phones. 2.8 GHz or greater home cordless phones are not good for us either...and I hate to continue but wireless routers and alarm clocks are bad as well. It comes down to distance to the object and you should try to keep these things a couple feet away from your body. Sadly, I do believe that we will see a significant rise in brain tumors in about 7 to 12 years. But I hope innovation can change the potential harm that we get from this great invention that a cell phone is.

    May 29, 2008 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. S. Robinson

    I am a retired nurse and have always feared the radiation from cell phone use. I also would venture to say that the devices that prople are wearing over their ears will have the same harm.

    May 29, 2008 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Elizabeth

    I'd bet money that the cell phone/cancer link is bogus. We are surrounded by radio waves, natural and man-made. Cosmic, solar, the man-made radio communications that have been around for a century have inundated us with radio waves. Cell phones are a drop in the bucket of radio radiation. The same goes for magnetic fields. The fact is that radio waves do not physically contain the energy necessary to break up your DNA and cause cancer.

    What is PROVEN is that cell phone use while driving is as bad as driving drunk. Obviously quite dangerous, but no one seems to care about that. That trolley crash in Boston is (anecdotally) reported to be caused by the operator using a cell phone at the time of the crash. This is the true cell phone health epidemic.

    As a science professional, I find it dismaying how the public loves to jump on sensational conspiracy theories that the scientific community generally disproves. There are always educated people that will disagree and some things take a while to prove conclusively, but I wish people would take the time to understand the science and the general scientific consensus before jumping on the cell phone-cancer/autism-vaccine/anti-climate change/anti-evolution bandwagon.

    May 29, 2008 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. George Pruiett

    I carry my cell phone in my front right pocket and it’s not in a case. Often times after receiving a phone call in the vibrate mode, I notice that I get a pulse type or vibration in my thigh as if the phone was in my pocket. My times the phone will not even be in use at all or nor is it in my possession. I do beieve the phone is the source of this on going stimluation. I was happy to see the discussion tonight on cell phone safety. I look forward to additional information on this subject.


    George S. Pruiett – Hephzibah, GA

    May 29, 2008 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kathleen Higgs

    I have worried for years just about that. My grandfather was one of the original "Can you hear me now" men who set up the cellphone towers and networks in Michigan. He died of brain cancer at the age of 62 in 1959 after 40 years with the telephone company. Some one should check on the causes of death of the telephone company employees who did the original work. I know phones today don't transmit as much as the original ones did, but still those were experiments except for those working directly with them. Today, people use them constantly, especially the young ones. Is it not likely the sheer frequency is going to add up to the same exposure as led to my grandfather's death?

    May 29, 2008 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. m. meade

    Symptoms from cell phone radiation...

    Since I first started studying this issue 8 years ago, I have been talking with people about the radiation concerns. In the process I have met several people–very normal people–who have told me that they experience symptoms after or during cell phone use. Nearly all were very motivated to use cell phones, so it was not likely a phobia. Sometimes the symptoms started with one phone, and not another.

    They told me of headaches, dizziness, pain in the face and neck, burning, ear ringing, trouble with sleep afterwards, and even nosebleeds. Symptoms subsided if they did not use the cell phone or, for some, if they used a wired earpiece (which seems to reduce radiation by perhaps 50% or more). Symptoms would return if they used it again.

    In most cases they told me they were so glad to hear there were actually studies that validated their experiences, and that they weren't going crazy. This is a sad thing-that people who are getting symptoms (and science currently estimates that 3 to 10% of the population does) feel they must keep it to themselves, or people–including doctors– will think they are nuts.

    In Sweden, hypersensitivity to this radiation and to electromagnetic fields in general is considered a legal disability, and the government must provide accommodations. Here the issue is hardly on the "radar screen." We must educate the medical profession and the research funders, and put pressure on the cell phone industry and our government to address the concerns.

    May 29, 2008 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Mike O

    Has nay testing been done regarding the effects of using wireless BlueTooth ear piece devcices rather than a wired ear piece?

    May 30, 2008 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Armando

    Thanks for covering this topic. I've never heard of this before so when I started getting symptoms I was confused as to the cause. I felt a headache below the ear used to make the phone call, especially after long conversations. Although I've had headaches before, they were different. Sometimes I also feel a slight pain or dizziness. I have cut back on my use of mobile phones but I hope it's not too late.
    At least with cigarettes there is a clear warning label. Most doctors probably don't even see a cause for concern with mobile phone usage.

    May 30, 2008 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. David Tornheim

    A few things I forgot to mention and others I want to follow up on:

    1) Cancer & tumors are not necessarily the primary health concern about cell phone use and wireless antennas. The major studies showing effects (see http://www.antennafreeunion.org/info_evidence.htm) in my opinion had stronger more consistent and frequent and easily measurable reporting of more minor symptoms at relatively low exposures (many of which I noticed reported on this blog): headaches, dizziness, sleep disturbances/insomnia. Therefore, the argument often boasted that a lack of a huge increase in cancer following the huge increase in cell phone use means there is no cause for concern is not that compelling. These other symptoms which would effect more people more frequently concern me at least as much.

    2) I have noticed that those who so strongly say the studies say that cell phones are safe DON'T CITE THEM. If that's the argument, let's see the data, including the INDEPENDENT, non-industry funded studies. As evidence that there are concerns, please see this compilation of studies with summaries:


    Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in working together on addressing this: dat_room@hotmail.com.

    I plan to submit another blog soon.

    -David Tornheim

    June 3, 2008 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Shelly Kalnitsky

    Dr. Gupta believes wired headsets are safe as reported on Larry king last week. NOT TRUE –In fact they deliver up to 3 x more radiation into the inner ear through the wire than if you just place the phone against your ear..
    I have studies to prove this. Go to http://www.cprnews.com. Under world news are over 150 studies on cell phone dangers.




    Today there are an estimated 3 billion cell phones in the world. In Europe 80% of the population uses them, compared to 60% in the US. The US. Market is growing quickly especially among teens and children who are at the greatest risk. . All this points to one fact: cell phones are BIG business. Even though the health risks from radiation are being reported and the evidence is mounting, the industry giants continue to claim their products are safe.
    Shelly Kalnitsky, an authority on cell phone issues wants to ask you three questions.
    1. Do you now believe nicotine is non-addictive?
    2. Do you now believe that cigarette smoking does not cause lung cancer?
    3. Do the words “radiation” and “microwaves” sound like something you want going into your brain?

    “The jury is still out on the extent of the long term effects of cell phones” says Kalnitsky “but we are discovering more evidence of cell phone dangers.” He points to an independent reporting site http://www.cprnews.com which documents hundreds of articles , studies and research on cell phone dangers under world news.
    He discusses :
    • How the industry suppresses negative stories.
    • The increased risks cell phones pose to teens and children.
    • Why current hands free kits are more dangerous.
    • New products that can reduce the risk.
    • Safety tips in cell phone usage.

    Kalnitsky is an expert on the subject and can add insight on recent scientific findings as well as discuss protection devices such as shields, new hands free radiation free kits and safety tips that can offer a remedy for cell phone users.

    June 4, 2008 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. jim johnson

    Dear Dr. Gupta, Here are two questions about brain tumors which are one of your specialties.

    1) Cell phones have been in use in Finland for decades. Is the incidence of brain tumors there increasing? If so, of what type?

    2) Is the incidence of brain tumors increasing in areas where the ozone hole is large like Australia and southern South America? I ask this due to the possibility that long ultraviolet light waves may be able to penetrate the skull, particularly in children, since these waves can penetrate glass where as short UV light waves do not penetrate glass.

    June 5, 2008 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Dr.Alokesh Bagchi,MS,FAIS,FICS.

    Hi! Dr. Gupta,
    i am a Accoustic Tomuor patient. I was in active surgical practice, till 20th April 08, but, by evening I had Ataxia for the first time , and later diagnosed as Auditory Tumour Left. i was put on Craniectomy , still Radiotherapy is going on . I was using Cell phone heavily , from last around 10 years(1998), 2/2.5 hrs a day, at least. I do agree with you. Please raise your voice and advice us as to how can we create awareness amoung the people, so that Cell phone is used more judiciously. had also mailed, Dr Vinni Khuranna, who advised me to tell the Press and Dr Keith Black, who is still to respond!

    June 6, 2008 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Svetlana

    Thank you for this article! I will be using the speaker phone mode.

    June 25, 2008 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Pat

    Why wait for definite proof? How many people have to die to get proof?
    Are there any studies on etectrical fields and cancer rates? WHat about hospital workers using MRI? IS there testing that should be done to determine what electromagnetic level is safe? Hospital workers have high rates of cancer. WHY???? If changing how we use cell phones makes one's live safer-why not change how we use cell phones? Is text messaging afer than "talking" on a cell phone?? Can anyone answer any of the above-or do you have any thoughts on the topics? My Dad died of lung cancer due to uranium exposure that was supposed to safe. We learned too late that he was exposed. I don't want to wait for proof to protect his granchildren!

    July 23, 2008 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RJ

    I think it's unfortunate that some scientists (a very small minority, to be sure) have chosen to ignore the scientific method w.r.t. the purported cell phone-cancer link. The story that linked to this blog cited the director of the University of Pittsburgh's oncology department, who said, "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe." That's ridiculous! I don't know that carrots are safe. Unfortunately, this lack of logic can be applied to any number of crazy theories. Let's use Pascal's Wager: since we can't be certain that god does not exist, it makes more sense to believe in god. The gaps in reasoning should be clear – the simple fact is that numerous studies have shown no increased cancer risk with cell phone use. No, we can't be sure that cell phones don't cause cancer, but all of our evidence suggests that they don't. Quote "playing it safe" is completely unscientific, and shouldn't be coming from the mouths of people employed because of their ability to further the scientific process.

    July 23, 2008 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Terry W. Brookman

    If the radiation from a cell phone can hurt you what about all the other man made electromagnetic background radiation? In todays medium tech society we are surrounded by such stuff and it is growing. I would suppose there could be a fashion trend set with stylish clothing designed to shield us from this stuff. Adapt to survive!

    July 23, 2008 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. George Currier

    Dr. Gupta:
    I've often wondered why naval and amatuer radio operators haven't been included in the various studies. Both groups sit for hours near RF transmitters – usually only feet away from them and with RF power outputs ranging from a few watts to thousands of wattts of RF radiation. Also, many telephone exchange workers performed their work surrounded by electro-magnetic devices numbering in the thousands of various relays and coils – many driven by RF power.

    July 24, 2008 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. KC

    I am a 49 year-old economics graduated and have only started carrying/using a mobile phone 2 years ago!! Not bad not someone who was used to having his own Personal Assistant/Secretary... I have monitored "carefully" over several periods that about four 5mm long fine hairs have grown outside my ear hole as and when I use the mobile phone "frequently". I had unplugged those hairs severally times and they stop growing when mobile phone is not used!! However, they will start growing when mobile phone is used again. I conclude that it is some kind of "defence against/response to" the electromagnetic wave!

    I am absolutely convinced that something is not "right" when mobile phone is used!


    July 24, 2008 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Anthony Napolitano

    What are the possible health risks associated with carrying a cellular phone in your pocket as opposed to a holster?

    July 24, 2008 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. mk

    I don't remember the source or the exact numbers, but I believe there was at least 1 study that found compelling evidence for a link between brain tumors and cell phones.

    Rather than look at rates of cancer incidence, that study concentrated only at subjects with _existing_ brain tumours, and found that in patients who used cellphones, they were more than TWICE as likely to have the cancer develop on the side of the head on which they used their mobiles...

    Take from that what you will, but it raises significant questions.

    For the record – I consider myself an average cellphone user: a few calls a day, 200-300 mins month – but speaking empirically I can "feel" effects of using the phone: a "heating sensation" and tingling after use, that gets gradually worse with protracted use and eventually abates after putting the phone away. I still use it, as I find the benefits of instant communication outweight the risks as currently known, but I remain convinced that heavy cellphone use will lead to health problems.

    July 24, 2008 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. G McConnell

    Would an individual who wears a cell phone on their belt all day be at the same level of risk as a person actually using the phone? Is there any risk associated with carrying the phone close to the body? I am sure there are many people who attach a cel phone to their belt or pants. Can Dr. Gupta please address this? Thank you.

    July 24, 2008 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.