For a long time many of us have suspected that cell phones are dangerous, especially after the World Health Organization classified their use as a possible carcinogen. The idea that your cell phone may cause brain cancer has been picking up steam in recent years, but there’s never been definite proof; because while there have been numerous studies, their results haven’t been consistent. And unlike most controversial issues that are often ridiculed as “conspiracy theories”, there isn’t a clear divide between the scientific community and the public on this one. Some people think they may be dangerous and others don’t, regardless of their academic status.
But one scientist thinks he’s figured it out. Igor Yakymenko has been researching this issue and he believes that he’s found proof that cell phones are carcinogenic. Unlike previous scientists who have laid the groundwork through numerous studies, his research is a meta-study. In other words, it’s a study on 100 other studies that have come before, to see if there are any discernible trends. Here is what he’s found so far.
“These data are a clear sign of the real risks this kind of radiation poses for human health,” Yakymenko said.
The study, done by American and Ukrainian scientists, “indicates that among 100 currently available peer-reviewed studies dealing with oxidative effects of low-intensity RFR, in general, 93 confirmed that RFR induces oxidative effects in biological systems.”
“Ordinary wireless radiation” could trigger ROS production in cells, the study said.
Yakymenko said that cellphone use for 20 minutes a day for five years can boost the risk of one type of brain tumor by three times, while using a cellphone for an hour a day for four years and increase the risk of certain tumors by three to five times.
The National Cancer Institute in the United States estimated that about 23,400 new cases of primary malignant brain and central nervous system cancers were diagnosed in 2014 across the US.
Yakymenko also cautioned that brain and related cancers can take as many as 30 years to develop.
So is this controversial subject finally settled?
Not quite. For one, there’s a possibility that many of these studies didn’t account for several biases, so if skeptics weren’t convinced before they still won’t be now. But those are small potatoes compared to one glaring fact. While much of this data indicates that cell phone radiation can damage our cells, it doesn’t seem to be adding up in the real world. Cell phone usage has skyrocketed over the past 20 years (which should be enough time for cancer to show up in at least a few people), brain cancer rates have remained relatively flat.
So does that prove that all of these studies are bunk?
Again, not quite. For instance, if you take a look at cancerresearchuk.org, you’ll find plenty of charts and statistics related to brain cancer in the United Kingdom. One of those charts spells out the UK’s brain cancer rates from 1993 to 2011. On the surface it actually seems to correlate with cell phone usage. The numbers go up throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, and then begin to drop around 2008. That drop seems to coincide with a time period when cell phone companies started lowering the amount of radiation emitted from their products.
However, the website clearly states that the UK’s medical system improved its “data collection and diagnostic capabilities” multiple times in that period. So basically, the overall data on brain cancer rates is unreliable because they keep changing their record keeping methods, and I’m willing to bet that other developed nations like the US have changed their data collection procedures as well. If we don’t know exactly how many brain cancers are created every year, than no study on cell phone usage can definitively prove anything.
So while Yakymenko’s analysis is compelling, we’re still left with the same “maybes” and “probablies” that we had before. Still, you might want to go hands-free just in case. You may look like a crazy person who’s talking to himself, but it sure beats brain cancer.