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A new look at research that links cell phone use with cancer

Cell Phone User Walks Into a Bar…

It’s still controversial. And the jury’s still out. So we won’t soon have an answer to the question of a possible cancer link to cell phone use.

But a new investigation by a team of South Korean cancer researchers nudges the issue a little closer to the light. Here is their not very surprising revelation: Be wary of studies sponsored by cell phone industry groups.

Your amazing health phone

I’ll start with the punchline.

Some cell phone studies have found that tumor risk is LOWER among cell phone users than among people who rarely use cell phones.

Riiight. No extra charge for your cell phone’s anti-tumor effect.

The Korean team found that cell studies using the highest quality methods tended to be funded by non-industry groups, such as cancer and environmental organizations. Industry groups, such as the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, funded studies that used low quality methods.

You can imagine the results.

Analysis of eight high quality studies revealed a slightly higher tumor risk among regular cell users compared to infrequent users or those who never used cell phones or mobile phones at all.

Low quality studies found no links between cell phone use and increased cancer risk. In fact…well I’ve already delivered the bizarre punchline about lower tumor risk among regular cell users.

Can I get another rim shot?

Reducing exposure

Last year I told you about a meta-analysis of mobile phone research, which happens to be one of the items included in the Korean investigation.

Researchers looked at two studies that compared medical records for cell users to records for people who didn’t use cells. The analysis also included 16 studies that compared cell phone use among cancer patients to cell use among healthy subjects.


  • Most of the studies found a link between cell use and increased tumor risk
  • Several studies found that cell phone users had an increased risk of malignant gliomas – the most common type of brain tumor (Senator Ted Kennedy’s cancer was a malignant glioma)
  • Several studies found a link between cell phone use and a higher rate of acoustic neuromas – a benign tumor of the auditory nerve that can cause deafness

But there is a bit of good news here. One of the authors of the study noted that newer cell phones emit less radiation compared to phones that were on the market in the 90s.

If you’re concerned about radio frequency radiation from your cell phone, there are ways to help reduce exposure. In response to an earlier e-Alert about cell phone dangers, an HSI member named Bill sent an e-mail with a tip about a useful website: RF Safe ( This site offers a number of inexpensive items designed to limit RF exposure.


“Study Charts Links Between Mobile Phones, Tumors” David Morgan, Reuters Health, 10/14/09,
“Long-Term Use of Cellular Phones and Brain Tumours: Increased Risk Associated With Use For 10 years” Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 64, No. 9, September 2007,