May 20th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Gupta: Cell phones, brain tumors and a wired earpiece

Learn more about cell phones and the current research into whether they could cause brain tumors, “Sanjay Gupta, M.D.,” Saturday, 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET.

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Just about every time I use a cell phone, I plug in my wired earpiece first. Having discussed the use of earpieces on several news shows, people expect to see me using one. If I am walking around the CNN studios, my colleagues often comment on it. In airports, people will stop me in the rare cases I forget to use the earpiece, and remind me about it. Perhaps, they are intrigued because I am a neurosurgeon who openly shows some concern about cell phones.

Truth is, it is a pretty easy thing to do – using an earpiece. Furthermore, my neck doesn’t hurt after being on the phone for a long conference call, and given that many of those calls take place in a car, an earpiece becomes a requirement. Still, though, I don’t want to dodge the obvious question: Do cell phones cause brain cancer?

It may be too early to say for sure. The latency period or time between exposure and recognition of a tumor is around 20 years, sometimes longer. And, cell phone use in the U.S. has been popular for only  around 15 years. Back in 1996, there were 34 million cell phone users. Today there are 9-10 times as many. Keeping that in mind, it is worth taking a more detailed look at the results of Interphone, a multinational study designed to try to  answer this question.

The headline from this study was there was little or no evidence to show an association between cell phones and cancer. Though, if you went to the appendix of the study, which interestingly was available only online, you found something unsettling. The data showed people who used a cell phone 10 years or more doubled the risk of developing a glioma, a type of brain tumor. And, across the board – most of the studies that have shown an increased risk are from Scandinavia, a place where cell phones have been popular since the early 1990s. For these reasons, the whole issue of latency could become increasingly important.

Cell phones use non-ionizing radiation, which is very different from the ionizing radiation of X-rays, which everyone agrees are harmful. Non-ionizing radiation won’t strip electrons or bust up DNA. It's more like very low power microwaves. Short term, these microwaves are likely harmless, but long term could be a different story. Anyway, who likes the idea of a microwave, even a low-powered one, next to their head all day?

And, what about kids? I have three of them, aged 5, 4 and 2. Fact is, they are more likely to lead to my early demise than cell phones. But, as hard as it is to believe sometimes, they actually have thinner skulls than adults, and will probably be using cell phones longer than I ever will.

The first person to encourage me to regularly wear an ear piece was Dr. Keith Black. He also is a neurosurgeon, and makes a living removing – you guessed it – brain tumors. Keith has long believed there is a link, and for some time, his was a lonely voice in this discussion. Nowadays, he has loud and prominent voices accompanying him. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute,  sent a memo warning staffers to limit their cell phone use. One of the possible consequences, he says, is  an increased risk of brain cancer. The city of San Francisco is trying to pass an ordinance requiring radiation warning labels on all cell phones.  The European Environmental Agency has said cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline. Even the makers of cell phones suggest you don’t place a device against your head, but rather advocate holding it 5/8 to a full inch away.

Many will roll their eyes at this, scoffing at the precautionary principle on display here. Fair enough. Still, I like my wired earpiece, and I don’t have to turn my life upside down to use it. I also text and email a lot more, because my kids rarely allow me to have a phone conversation. Speaking of kids, you will probably see mine using earpieces too, when my wife and I decide they are old enough to use one, which isn’t in the foreseeable future.

With reporting from CNN's Danielle Dellorto

soundoff (1,162 Responses)
  1. Don

    Dr. Gupta, my mother was a senior engineer in R&D at Motorola who along with 2 other engineers i know of, who died of cancer in 1992. I have only recently (6 months ago) gotten a cell phone, which i have blamed for her fatal cancer, since as u said person can't function in modern society w/o a cell phone any longer. This belief that cell phone technology was cause of her cancer begun by my mother on her death bed who talked about this new wireless transmitter technology she was working on back then.

    May 22, 2011 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jjlh

      No disrespect but she probaly would have gotten cancer regardless.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
    • Bob The Builder

      I notice you don't mention what type of cancer. Your anecdotal story is even less than useless without such basic details.

      May 22, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
    • stta

      jjlh- That argument holds about as much weight as a sun worshiper "gotten" skin cancer or cigarette smoker would probably "gotten" lung cancer anyway. You may be correct but you also may be a little too quick defending rf on it's affect on the human body. Your defense seems to be your theory with no scientific backing. We know industries create studies to defend their products so whenever a health study is released, we need to find the motive of the report.

      May 31, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      stta: there are a lot of devastating things in our environment, but avoiding something because it *seems* bad is not good logic or good science. There is biological evidence to support the fact that sunlight causes skin cancer; same goes for smoking and lung cancer (and many other proven carcinogens). Currently, cell phone use is not in that category - the study came up with no association. Granted, the result was actually closer to "inconclusive" than proving no causal link, but there still is no proof that the radiation is carcinogenic.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Pat Hill

      Thank you for this post. My 1st husband also died in 1992 at the age of 45, leaving me with 3 kids to raise. He was a business executive, in perfect health – until he was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma. He was addicted to cell phones from the very begininning & used the old style "brick" phones, one of which I thought may have "leaked". No one believed my theory, but his tumor was located above his right ear . He only survived approx. one year following surgery, radiaton & chemo.

      May 31, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
    • william rubin

      The energy produced from your cell phones is microwave radiation. This is one of the weakest forms of radiation in the spectrum and in fact has less energy than red light which as you know will not even expose film in a dark room. There was a recent article in Scientific America that stated that the microwave photon does not have enough energy to alter DNA and therefore could never produce cancer. That does not mean that enough of it cannot cook your brain! It does mean it cannot produce cancer. The energy level required to alter DNA starts in the Ultra Violet range where the photons do have enough energy

      May 31, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
  2. Stan

    I'm an optometrist, and I've seen an increase in posterior subcapsular cataracts just in one eye. Usually the patient is in their mid 40's to early 50's. When I ask which side they use their cellphone, it's always the side where the subcapsular cataract is. There seems to be a few studies, and a team of researchers from the Technion have shown a new link has been found between microwave radiation and the development of cataracts. The reason I looked into this was I developed a posterior subcapsular cataract just on my left eye, and I had wondered with using a cellphone on my left ear had anything to do with it. The earlier model cellphones that I had used, I would comment to others about how my left ear would actually be warm from using it. I eventually had surgery for it at age 49. This got me asking patients whenever I would see this type of monocular cataract in this age group, and their cellphone use would consistently be on the side of the cataract. And also reading the few studies showing cataract formation via microwave radiation. I'm not saying cell phone use caused my cataract, or for others. It's interesting enough though that further study should be done, and I would recommend the use or a earbug or speaker phone while using a cell phone.

    May 22, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charles s

      Stan – observation is the first step of science. Since you are a doctor, you should go through your records and try to determine the exact number of posterior subcapsular cataracts in just in one eye that you have seen. Determine which side of the head that these patients use for their cell phones. Write a paper and send it to your national science journal as an observation of possible cause of this problem. Unless professionals like you start to report your observations, nothing will happen. If enough doctors report this problem, then eventually someone at the NIH might do a bigger study on it.

      May 22, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse |
    • SwmChk

      Stan- couldn't that also correlate to handedness? Most people hold their cell phones with their dominant hand. There could be a simple explanation such as, the eye on the side of the dominant hand gets rubbed more. The contacts get put in first and taken out last. I would also suggest looking at other information such as which side people sleep on. While its an observation that is good, I would need to see other statistics.

      May 31, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      This link may be easier to demonstrate than a link between cell phones and brain cancer - and the rates of cataract types should be pretty constant, I would think. I hope more research is done on this. Good insight, Stan.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • skeptic2

      When you drill through your patient records, count up those patients who have a cataract in only their cell phone dominant eye, and those patients who have a cataract in the non-cell phone dominant eye or in both eyes, and those patients who use a cell phone and those who don't have a cataract in their cell phone dominant eye, and those who have no cataracts in the other eye. Construct a four-square table and do a chi-square test on the distribution for a p=< 0.05. If your sample is large enough, you should get a sense of whether the distribution pattern is greater than would have been expected by chance. Don't bother sending in any results to any reputable journal if you can't disprove the null hypothesis.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
  3. Kelly

    I dont know where I stand on this yet, but it reminds me of a story from the book Freakonomics where there was a long period of time where there was a similar arguement about lead. Lead in cans, paint, etc. much arguement about if it was really harmful and then we finally woke up. Like i said, I dont know if the cells phone issue is analogus, but it makes you think.

    May 22, 2011 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Wayne Justice

    Warming of the head area from the microwave energy is a problem that can be prevented by the use of a blocking screen placed in a head cap and or an earphone as suggested. The link may reveal who, specifically, is at risk and why. People with autoimmune diseases have a four fold increase in non-hodgkins lymphoma (NHL). However, if sunburned at age 21 or during the winters from age 20-40, then this risk returns to normal. Also, consider high tension line or electrical workers. Telephone linemen, electricians and electric-power workmen are developing breast cancer at six times the expected rate. The link in the Swedish study suggests autoimmune disease (Arthritis, psoriasis, Lupus,etc.) and low vitamin D sets the stage for increased NHL cancers, not EMF exposer. Significant EMFs have been around for at least 170 years. I suspect a multiplicity of linking causes, not just EMFs, all by itself, will emerge as a set of conditions causing cancer (genetics, low vitamin D, chemical contaminants).

    May 22, 2011 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DB

      The heat generated by absorption of a cell phone's radiation, is a non-issue. That's what cell phone companies and FCC uses in their smoke-and-mirrors evaluation of health hazards posed by cell phones. There is an active effort not to look at the real issues, which are well-understood and deliberately ignored by FCC in its policy making process.

      May 22, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
  5. jjlh

    First of cellphones dont use microwaves they use radio waves same as any radio with wave lengths much bigger then microwaves with wavelengths everyone is in contact with all the time if they have wifi or are close to a radio system or using a cordless home phone which. Next i dont see how a head peice can even effect this because instead of waves from the cellphone being next to your head the waves from the wireless headpeice is there being about the same length and frequency. Lastly very few people call with cell phones and texting is becoming more popular so waves are even less likely to be next to your head

    May 22, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kleo

      Why would you presume that "very few people" call on their cell phones? What world are you living in? Obviously, a very limited one.

      May 24, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • Murm

      he said he used wired headpiece not wireless

      May 26, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Not wireless, wired ear buds like you use with a an iPod except it has a microphone close up the wire, my friend has been using this for years, i want to get one too but need to find one that sounds clear.

      May 27, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse |
    • stta

      FYI bluetooth (hands free headset) runs at 2.402 to 2.480 gigahertz and a microwave oven runs at a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz. The only difference between Bluetooth and a microwave oven is the power. Where to you get your knowledge from? It seems from your comments your information is not coming from an accurate source or it is made up. Seeing what a microwave can do to food, the jury is still out for me about safety of cellphones and headsets but we should all keep an open mind.

      May 31, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Actually "regular" electrical waves can be dangerous, too. The reason that microwaves are more dangerous is because of the amount of electrical energy they carry. They are shorter in length, and therefore carry more energy per time span than the longer waves. This is the main reason they're used in microwave ovens. You won't hold a microwave transmitter (it's actually called a magnetron) to your head for obvioius reasons, however, if you hold a lower-power radio wave generating device to the side of your head for hours a week, the exposure can and will eventually equal that of a microwave transmitter held to your head for a few moments. Non-ionizing radiation (non-nuclear) can most definitely hurt you, if you are exposed long enough. Any old electronics technician who worked with vacuum tubes can tell you about the burns he probably got from touching the tubes when they were operating. THe burns were not from heat, but from radio waves (which are simply a form of electrical energy....electrons don't care if they're flying through the air, or traveling down a wire). The exposure intensity of any energy is a square of the distance from the source. The exposure is MUCH more intense if the source (a cell phone) is held to the side of the head. How that actually affects living tissue is just beginning to be understood. While using a cell phone a few minutes a week is probably not a problem, if you use it for endless hours a day, like many teenagers, there are going to be problems...

      May 31, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
  6. jjlh

    X rays and gamma rays are small enough to mess up our DNA because there wavelengths are about the size of particles
    ultraviolet rays are a little dangerous
    then comes the spectrum of visible light which oubviously cannot harm us or anyone not living in a cave would be dead
    Infrared wavelengths are bigger then visible light
    Micro waves (wavelengths) are to big to give us cancer the only way they can harm us is because they are capable of heating up
    Radio waves have huge wavelengths with a mangetude measurable in meters and are way to big to harm humans in anyway theres no way somthing this big could get in our cells nuclei and cause cancer its litterly like trying to put an elephant into the eye of a needle

    May 22, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dbs

      Not true. Size of wavelength isn't the issue, the issue is the energy the photon carries (which, in fact, correlates with the wavelength). And, x-rays themselves don't actually damage DNA; it's the ejected electrons that do (hence, ionizing–forming ions).

      May 22, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
    • dah00

      Fact is, there have been animal experiments that show there is injury to neurons exposed to cell phone level radiofrequency radiation. No one knows why but there is injury. I used to dismiss this but now I don't.

      May 31, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  7. wkinNC

    I think this is a very interesting article. I am certain there is truth to it, most definitely. I would absolutely be 100% on-board with using earbuds or the bluetooth device for my phone. I do have a problem, however. Both my mother and I are bilateral cochlear implant recipients. We must place any phone's microphone at the same level as the microphones of our processors. Our ears do not hear sound at all. Earbuds and the bluetooth devices will not work for us because without our processors, we are 100% deaf. Unfortunately it seems that, once again, the hearing impaired are not considered when something is brought to market

    May 22, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      It would be nice if companies made products for everyone, but they usually only go for the biggest market share. Often, it is up to those coping with disabilities to come up with innovative solutions. Have you thought about modifying a headband by attaching ear buds at the appropriate locations?

      May 31, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
  8. erich2112x

    I am glad to see folks having questions and expressing skepticism. Our media personalities can be extremely manipulative, we know this. We see trickery, deceit and sleight of hand in full swing every time we turn on the TV. I for one will continue to ask questions about this and seek solutions if it is in fact dangerous to use cell phones. I certainly will not be an open mouthed, zombie Neanderthal the way they'd like me to be.

    May 22, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sheri

      Huh? Erich2112x, unplug your computer and please spare us.

      May 22, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • erich2112x

      Sheri, don't behave like an a$s because someone questions your Idols. Rapture came and went and look, your still here. So enough with using cleaver little lines you've seen used by others at my expense.

      May 22, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    As a radio communication engineering student 30 years ago I took lab courses in microwaves. You would not believe the precautions we took to limit the exposure to to 50 mW of microwave energy we were experimenting with. Today's cell phones can produce 500 mW or 10 times this energy and you exposed to this energy every time you use a cell phone. I totally agree with the conclusion of Stan the optometrist. It is a well known fact that radio engineers that worked around microwave transmission antennas develop cataracts. I have read reports of this many times over the years. It should be no surprise that cell phone users have higher incidence of cataracts on the eye closest to the cell phone microwave antenna. Studies I have read show that the eyeball and eye socket act as a resonant microwave cavity which concentrates the microwave energy in the eye. This can cause the inside of the eye to increase in temperature a few degrees during exposure to microwave energy. And a cell phone puts this energy near to the eye. Your ear canal is designed to guide the sound energy to your ear drum inside your head. The ear canal also provides and acts as a wave guide for microwave energy which enters your head through the ear canal and concentrates the microwave energy into your brain behind your ear drum. Cancers seen in the brain of cell phone users tend to be located just inside the ear drum area where the ear canal concentrates, guides, the cell phones microwave energy.

    Also after viewing Dr. Gupta's video clip on the CNN web site showing the plastic skull filled with brain like solution that put the phone near the ear and measured microwave energy with a probe I wonder if this test actually accounts for the structures of an actual skull with its ear canal and eye socket. If this plastic skull does not have these actual skull features it may be missing where the microwave energy is actually being focused and concentrated in a real human skull. And not properly measuring the amount of microwave energy being absorbed by the brain and eye. This would cause and under reporting of the amount of microwave energy entering the brain and eye.

    I personally do not use a cell phone as my background in radio communications causes me to believe the microwave energy emitted by cell phones generates to high of a health risk for me personally. I truly believe that over time cell phone exposure will be found to be a much higher health risk than most people believe. As one of my professors used to say "A word to the wise is sufficient".

    May 22, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jack25

      Ok Ok I will start using a head piece ASAP!

      May 22, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      Steve – thanks for the information. The idea that the ear canal channels the radio wave into a particular part of the brain seems to make sense to me. There is finally questions being asked and maybe more thorough studies will be done. Since the cell phone companies have extensive records about the actual usage of every phone, it should be possible to compare the frequency of brain cancer to exposure time. Individual biology will probably affect how this radiation will affect people; some people maybe more susceptible and clustering in families should show up.

      May 22, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse |
    • John L

      You state: Your ear canal is designed to guide the sound energy to your ear drum inside your head. The ear canal also provides and acts as a wave guide for microwave energy which enters your head through the ear canal and concentrates the microwave energy into your brain behind your ear drum.

      Every waveguide I've encountered is made from metal. Do you have any evidence to support your claim, maybe with a link you could post?

      May 23, 2011 at 08:04 | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      Wave guides are metal for efficiency. In taking an Electromagnetic Theory class in College we learned that salt water can be an effective conductor and thus suitable for directing of microwaves. The human body, in fact has an internal resistance of about 100 ohms, this is very similar to sea water. Application of Maxwell's equations (not for the timid) will show Steve to be pretty well on.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
    • Robin

      If using an earbud helps to eliminate the effect of the radiation on the brain – would there eventually be evidence of an effect of the radiation on the hip where the phone is carried? I would choose hip damage over brain damage but it would seem that there would have to be some kind of effect just the same. Not that any of it will stop me from using a cell phone! It is just rather interesting tidbits of ideas and partial information at this point.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      Thanks Steve,
      Your points were well stated and much appreciated. I try not to use the cell phone too much because it gets too hot, and so I text the caller back – or I call them back using my land-line. The Bluetooth has been great.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff L


      How comfortable are you with a bluetooth headpiece? See my comment below...


      I would expect the hip and nearby structures (gulp) to be less susceptible to significant damage (/cancer) than the brain, however it would be nice if someone knowledgeable can confirm this as you raise a good point.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  10. Jane

    Was wondering do phone emit non-ionizing radiation when the phone is in stand by mode or just when there is a call? Wondering if it is sending out radiation when you have it in your pocket or on your belt. Also does a bluetooth ear piece also send out radiation? So many people just keep them on their ear. Does it only send out radiation, if it does, when you are on a call?

    May 22, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julia

      My boyfriend has a cell phone burn on his leg where he used to keep his cell phone in his pocket. It's been there several years now, in the shape of a cell phone. The skin is a darker brown than the rest of his leg and feels like leather. Hair won't grow there and it itches a lot. He scratches it until it bleeds in places sometimes.

      May 22, 2011 at 15:01 | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      Julia – your boyfriend should go see a dermatologist immediately. This sound like a serious condition since it has been several years and not healing.

      May 22, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse |
  11. Ursula Swain

    It appears that to many people have become stifled by the clutter within their own mind hence no longer finding the abiility to tab into their dormant cells to recognise the dangers surrounding us, many of which are self induced.
    It is my very strong opinion that Dr. Gupta and many others are merely forewarning us, afterall, choices do have consequences.
    Social contracts are all about money, not health.

    May 22, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Gerald D. Williams, Ph.D. Scientist

    Dr. Gupta:
    I saw your report. There is too much talk about Tumors and not enough basic talk about brain damage. The latest new evidence explaining the brain damage has to do with low frequencies that resonate with the brain's biology. This may have more to do with the alteration of the brain's chemistry than from a heating effect (which can of course alter enzyme reactions.

    I wrote the you several years ago to let you know that there are "blue tube" air headsets available, which keep radiation several inches from the head. I have used them since 2000 but the "Industry" has kept this option from common knowledge.
    The latest Air Tube headsets have an option for a RF Shield that generates its own frequencies to cancel out the "bad" low cycle frequencies. They are only available via the Internet.

    My friend, who is an Engineering Professor has done sophisticated RF head simulations for the past 15 years, at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. He told me in 2002 that using a hard wired earpiece only acts like a FM antenna and could be even worse in some respects. Only the Air Tube technology with frequency cancellation is 100% safe. It only costs me about $34 each.

    May 22, 2011 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gerald D. Williams, Ph.D. Scientist

      The point is that it would be a very simple solution if manufacturers were required to sell "air tube" headsets with every cell phone. However that would be an admission of the harmful effects of cell phones as well as other wireless devices in this trillion dollar industry. With large production, good headsets could cost no more than $15 and they don't require any battery.

      May 22, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
  13. Ursula Swain

    For those who still do not understand.
    Using a cell phone is like playing Russian Roulette a potential lethal game of chance.
    Clearly, cell phones do no have chambers that spin, but the human system does.
    There are three different cycles within us, creative, destructive and counter-active, all of them based upon weight, speed, light and heat.

    May 22, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      I would have drawn a different conclusion, based on the fact that the study showed little association between cell phones and cancer. If you are concerned about cell phones, that is your right. But it is far from obvious.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
  14. erich2112x

    A recent assessment was published in 2007 by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR).[5] It concludes that the three lines of evidence, viz. animal, in vitro, and epidemiological studies, indicate that "exposure to RF fields is unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in humans."........To me, that's a far more reliable study that a mannequin head filled with soapy water.

    May 22, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jack25

      Sounds like you're the mannequin. Doing your own research is safer. You probably do more research for a pizza. This is your brain you're talking about.? (I guess) Keep an open mind when it comes to health. Health over convenience for me; I'll be looking for the best antidote to possible brain tumors. Industry sponsored (paid for) surveys and studies are very suspect.

      May 22, 2011 at 16:21 | Report abuse |
    • jack25

      Doing your own research is safer. You probably do more research for a pizza. This is your brain you're talking about.? (I guess) Keep an open mind when it comes to health. Health over convenience for me; I'll be looking for the best antidote to possible brain tumors. Industry sponsored (paid for) surveys and studies are very suspect.

      May 22, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
    • erich2112x

      You might think about refreshing your screen after you post, Jack. There are computer classes, you know.

      May 22, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      jack - do your own research? Really? Serious research studies cost thousands, possibly millions of dollars. The best most people can afford is anecdotal research, which is about as reliable as a random guess (actually, it is generally LESS reliable).

      Scientific studies *can* have biases, and it is important to realize that. But ignoring them is ludicrous.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
  15. Bryan

    another thing that causes cancer....
    Lemme add that to the list, @ 23468476303084934394838603 items long

    May 22, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Blogson

    For years the cigarette industry maintained that its studies showed that smoking wasn't harmful. The asbestos people essentially said that asbestos exposure wasn't harmful, either. Longer term results proved that both claims were erroneous. As Gupta basically says, the jury is still out regarding cell phone use. Industry-sponsored studies always are suspect. It would be unfortunate if people discover that cell phone use is harmful the hard way, as did smokers and asbestos users, for examples. I have a cell phone but it resides in my car glove box and is for emergencies only.

    May 22, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sanjosemike

    I'm retired so I don't use my cell phone very often. Whatever the issue, it probably has something to do with exposure amount. Dr. Gupta is a neurosurgeon. This issue is directly in his area of expertise. If you are young, or have children who use cell phones regularly, I think I'd listen to Gupta and use the earpiece. They are inexpensive and convenient. But if you are in your 60s' and don't use a cell phone regularly, you probably have nothing to fear...

    Do I make sense?


    May 22, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. MIchael

    The problem is nobody knows for sure when something will strike a loved one. I guess the best advice I can give is preparation. My mom and dad signed themselves and my family up on Medsake on the same account so that in the unfortunate time of emergency crisis, we can help each other accessing medical info to the the medical provider for updated information.

    May 22, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. erich2112x

    And as for Dr. Blacks claims about microwaves cooking your brain like the food you put in a microwave oven,.......One well-understood effect of microwave radiation is dielectric heating, in which any dielectric material (such as living tissue) is heated by rotations of polar molecules induced by the electromagnetic field. In the case of a person using a cell phone, most of the heating effect will occur at the surface of the head, causing its temperature to increase by a fraction of a degree. In this case, the level of temperature increase is an order of magnitude less than that obtained during the exposure of the head to direct sunlight. The brain's blood circulation is capable of disposing of excess heat by increasing local blood flow

    May 22, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Gerald D. Williams, Ph.D. Scientist

    Here is a very recent Neurology article proving that cell phones alter brain activity. Although biochemists can easily justify affecting brain activity with an increased risk of cancer, that is not the important point.
    The point is that cell phones cause brain damage and by affecting brain activity they can increase cause hundreds of diseases and abnormalities as a result. We shouldn't focus on brain tumors:
    Here is the article which comes with a video:


    May 22, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. chuck L

    I saw this episode on cell phone effects on the brain. It was mentioned on the show that earpieces were a good alternative. But you talked (and showed) about wired ones. What about bluetooth earpieces? Are they just as good or not?

    May 22, 2011 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Phil

    will any communications engineer out ther comment on the need for an rf choke around the cable of the wired earpiece to prevent rf from traveling up to the earpiece? Otherwise the earpiece cable acts like an antenna and actually amplifies the radio signal by the time it reaches the earpiece. Is this correct??

    May 22, 2011 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DrD

      No RF or choke needed at earpiece voltage.

      May 23, 2011 at 02:58 | Report abuse |
  23. Julie Papadakis

    Dr. Gupta, what do you think about the efficacy of Pong iphone cases for radiation reduction (sold by Case Mate)? they make a bold claim but for the price tag, I don't want to buy snake oil. Do you think Dr. Black would be interested in conducting a test and review of the top 5 most popular products claiming radiation reduction since he already has the testing equipment? We, budgeted and concerned consumers would be soooooooooo grateful for the unbiased reviews!!!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 22:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Bob The Builder

    Bananas! Waffles! Hats! Belly button lint! Crotch rot!

    May 22, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Richard

    Cell phone and smart phones are way over rated! Use your home phones people! LANDLINES are safer – No texting and NO car accidents!

    May 23, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Adrian Juarez

    Dr Sanjay,

    I have a question, is it safer to use wireless bluetooth earpiece devices instead of wired devices?

    Kind Regards,

    May 23, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam G

      I'd be curious about the thoughts on this question as well... Thank you.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
  27. Adam G

    Any recommendations on headsets to get? Thank you.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Ursula Swain

    Regardless of the debate the simple truth is:
    An unremitting process reflects an unremitting cause.

    May 23, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Michelle

    My dad died from a brain tumor & never used a cell phone.

    May 23, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • missym

      Pretty sure he didn't say only cause....ppl died from brain tumors 100 years ago.

      May 23, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
  30. Michelle

    My dad died almost five years ago from a brian tumor & he never used a cell phone.

    May 23, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Paulo

    The reporter sells a nice news story about the possible link of cell phone radiation and cancer/tumors. There are a lot of speculation and conjectures in the news piece, but there is very little science in it.

    It is well known by now that all cancers are caused by mutant strands of DNA. The main question is: can the electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from cell phones mutate DNA molecules in the brain and give you cancer? The answer is NO…Why? Because the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones is about 1 million (!) times lower than the ‘blue limit’ frequency necessary to create such mutant DNA strands.

    Some electromagnetic waves do have enough energy to rip through and disrupt molecules. Examples include ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays. That’s why we should all minimize our exposure to sunlight. But the energy of cell phone photons is too low to cause cancer – a million times too low.

    Note: this explanation is based the photo-electric effect, for which Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921.

    May 23, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • job2010

      That is so wrong. Not all cancers are known to be caused by DNA mutations. We know for sure that cancers are abnormal development of cells. Otherwise normal cells suddenly start behaving "funny". The causes might be millions!!

      May 31, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
  32. missym

    Use my cell phone on the right....right temporal glioma in '03 size of a plum after about 5years of use. Resected by "the other" Dr. Black (Peter) CoNS Brigham& Women's Hosp. Boston, Ma.

    May 23, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. wakeup-call

    My husband's profession forced him to use his cell phone excessively for over a decade. He died 2 years ago from a Glioma (same side he held his cell phone to). The industry needs to inform people what they've known for decades- there is a health risk when using a cell phone. Take Dr. Gupta's advice and use precautions when using this technology and do not hold them anywhere against your body! Please believe me.... I wish I could attach my husband's MRI. It speaks volumes.

    May 24, 2011 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Ursula Swain

    " In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind."
    The prepared mind requires a much greater understanding of pathology as it relates to disease and its causes, processes, developement and consequences.

    May 24, 2011 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Richard


    May 24, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patricia

      I do! My cell pohone.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      I meant to say "moreso than my cell phone"

      May 31, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
  36. Sangeetha Delampady

    I should take Dr Gupta's advice and use wired earpiece now. I have got the bad habit of keeping my mobiles close to my head while I sleep. Plus the other day I talked on the phone for nearly around 5 hours continously and the left side of my head didn't stop hurting even after two days. >_<

    May 27, 2011 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Dr. David Nghiem

    Dear Dr. Gupta,

    Thanks so much for your effort. Please visit http://www.globalenvironmentcenter.com/ for our GEC info on the cell-phone issues and solutions that we shared with President Obama. If you like, we can also share with you our correspondence with Steve Jobs of Apple about the iPhone4 issues!

    David Nghiem, PhD.
    Founder and Chairman
    Global Environment Center (GEC)
    Minnesota, USA

    May 27, 2011 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Bill

    If you're texting all the time, what about prolonged exposure to your hands?

    May 27, 2011 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Judd Larson

    Dr. Gupta,
    Do you use Ferrite Beads on the wire which leads to your earpiece? I've read that the wire can act like an antennae and transmit the cell phone "radiation" via this pathway as well. Supposedly the ferrite bead will stop the RF from traveling up the wire and into the earpiece. Is there any truth to this?

    May 28, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Don B.

    With respect and deference to the physicians commenting on this issue, there is no evidence that cell phone radiation does any more damage than the non-ionizing radiation in the environemt that we are already absorbing from commercial television, radio, directional microwave transmission used by telecom companies and even our own Sun. As a 30 year proffesional in the cellular industry, I have been exposed to more non-ionizing radiation than most and I am healthy. During my tenure in this industry, I have noticed no greater percentage of cancer in co-workers than in non co-workers.
    In addition, the OET standards for this were written after a study of Specific Absorption Rates and a formula to calculate them was perfected by Dr. Allen Tafelove of Northwestern University and others. He can tell you that we all absorb several magnitudes of order more non-ionizing radiation from the sources named above than from cell phones or their associated network transmitters.
    I wonder why Dr.s Gupta and Black have not acknowledged this and why CNN is looking to blame cancer on cell phones. If this is a legitimate concern, then all sides of the issue should be discussed on air, including the OET standards and the NU study that they are based on.

    May 31, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Moni

    The problem with Gupta and his earpiece practice is that research has shown that wearing earpieces could possibly be just as dangerous. This is because now the radiation can travel up the wire and directly into the ears.

    May 31, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Seth Shotwell

    After seeing this report and hearing the decision of W.H.O. today, I am seriously considering doing away with my phone completely. I believe the U.S. government and the FCC have a lot to answer for in light of the fact that they have failed miserably (again) to protect us from hazardous technology in the interest of corporate profits. Perhaps we should keep our phones and get rid of the FCC ... they seem to be more hazardous to our citizens than anything else.

    May 31, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. mk

    I spoke to a neurosurgeon who used to be on the payroll of some top cellphone manufacturers. He was warning these companies in the early 1990's that the frequencies and wavelengths produced by phones could potentially re-wire the brain, causing not just tumors, but other mental health and physical issues. He was paid good money not to talk about it, until one day he decided to quit and start speaking out about the possible issues with cellphones. He was dismissed as a quack for years...now it seems as if we are paying attention to him.

    May 31, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. job2010

    Surely that woman from Oregon that spoke for 16 hours with no interruption while traveling on a train from Oakland (CA) to Salem (Oregon) has her brain cooked!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. AlexLA

    My understanding of radiofrequency energy is that it is not energy like light or radio waves. The latter is in the form of photons. Radiofrequency is the magnetic field generated by an electrical current which occurs at right angles to the vector of the electrical current in a circular pattern (that's the way I remember it from high school physics). That's why high-tension wires generate huge radiofrequency fields around them. Electronics generate fields for this reason also, especially during peak times of function. A microwave oven functions by running this field back and forth through a food item and thereby generating heat. Coiling a copper wire and running a current through it (a solenoid) creates a linear field out the end of the coil and into the food.

    May 31, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Gizmologist

    OK a few years ago it was overhead power lines (operating at a frequency of 60 hz that caused all kinds of maladies according to the "experts". Now that has been supplanted with dire warnings about cell phones. I believe we have ignored all the millions of other extremely high powered RF transmission systems in use the world over that saturate every inch of our planet. Plus factor in all the high frequency supplies in your cars, ipods, computers, etc.
    In short, according to what 'expert" you get stuck listening to, EVERYTHING under power causes cancer.

    May 31, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Ella

    I believe that Dr. Gupta points out that he uses a wired headpiece because Bluetooth is still allowing radiation due to having to transmit from your phone to your ear. So in essence to be fool proof you would need to use the wired in headpiece that looks dorky but apparently is safer. So in response to so many questions about Bluetooth....its better than holding the phone to your ear but not better than getting out that wired device that came with most phones and plugging it in just like you do your IPod.

    May 31, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff L

      I don't see Dr Gupta mentioning bluetooth or wireless earpieces at all in his article. Are your conclusions based on a guess, or on bonafide knowledge about radiation?

      See my comment below... let's resolve this if possible.

      May 31, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
  48. Karen

    Well, there's a reason to increase your texting plan....

    May 31, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Jeff L

    Dear All,

    A question that has been asked once above but not yet answered: does using a bluetooth (wireless) earpiece to make & receive calls have any radiation risks similar to what we might be exposed to with a cell phone?

    Looking at the problem from a practical perspective, I and most others I suspect would prefer a wireless earpiece to something wired, especially if we are going to be using it more often. However one might tend to keep it on the ear even when not on a call, for example when driving or just busy otherwise. So is there any radiation or risk from the powered-on earpiece itself, which no doubt is sending/receiving wireless information from the phone even when no call is active? If there is radiation from the earpiece, even if only during an active call, how well does using such an earpiece actually address the problem of cancer risk from cell phone use if at all?

    Dr Gupta's article implies the risk is eliminated using a wired earpiece, but does this apply to wireless? And is it definitively eliminated using a wired one? Apologies if I've missed prior dialogue on this subject.

    May 31, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Curmodgeon

    In the words of my sainted mother, "Piffle." Everybody just go get your tinfoil hat and it will be fine.

    May 31, 2011 at 14:29 | 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.