These days, cell phones are a way of life. We use them to talk, text, and read. Many people use smartphones as alarm clocks and cameras. It’s a no-brainer that we love our phones! But are they safe for the brain?
Brain cancer is the problem in question. However, research is tricky, especially as technology changes by the day. The results from studies have also been mixed. Before assuming the worst, learn about the science behind cell phones. It’s the best way to stay informed.
How Do Cell Phones Work?
Cell phone use has spiked since the 1990s when they became widely available. Specifically, smartphones have stolen the show. These mighty little devices work by releasing radiofrequency (RF) waves, a type of low-frequency electromagnetic radiation.
It’s on the opposite spectrum of high-frequency ionizing radiation, like x-rays. These have an established reputation of bringing on cancer. As the non-ionizing type, RF waves are thought to be harmless. But what’s the truth?1
Possible Effects Of Cell Phones On The Brain
1. Changes Gene Expression
Generally, a non-ionizing energy like RF waves is thought to be too low to damage human cells. Yet, according to a 2015 study, that’s not the case. DNA damage and changes in gene expression are listed as side effects.2
2. Promotes Oxidative Damage
Another potential consequence is an overproduction of reactive oxygen species or ROS. These substances are toxic to human cells and are often spread by cancers. They also bring on oxidative damage to DNA, making way for mutations.3 4
3. Immune Dysfunction
While poor immunity and brain tumors are listed as separate problems, the two may be related. If your immune system can’t keep up, cancer has an easier time forming. The chances only increase with an overproduction of ROS. And that’s not it. A 2016 paper found 26 studies linking RF waves with neuropsychiatric effects. Common problems of high cell phone use include the following:5 6
- Sleep disturbance
- Memory changes
- Ear ache
The Bottom Line
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, cell phones are categorized as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. This statement was made based on limited and inconsistent research. Until more studies are done, play it safe and learn how to use cell phones safely.7
How To Limit Radiofrequency Wave Exposure
Don’t be so quick to toss your phone! Follow these tips to reduce your exposure to RF waves.
1. Go Hands-Free
When possible, use the speaker mode. This lets you talk without holding the phone close to your head. After all, body tissue that is closest to the phone absorbs the most RF waves.8
2. Shorten Conversations
Keep phone calls short and sweet. The longer you talk on the phone, the more radiation is released. If you must continue chatting, opt for the speaker mode.9
3. Move Away From Other Phones
When making a call, move to a less crowded spot. You’ll get a better signal. Plus, with more cell phones around, it’ll need to send out more energy.10
|↑1||Cell Phones and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑5||Nageswari, K. “Mobile Phone Radiation: Physiological & Pathophysiologcal Considerations.” (2015).|
|↑3||Waris, Gulam, and Haseeb Ahsan. “Reactive oxygen species: role in the development of cancer and various chronic conditions.” Journal of carcinogenesis 5, no. 1 (2006): 14.|
|↑6||Pall, Martin L. “Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression.” Journal of chemical neuroanatomy 75 (2016): 43-51.|
|↑7||International Agency for Research on Cancer. “IARC classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Press release 208 (2011).|
|↑8, ↑9, ↑10||Cellular Phones. American Cancer Society.|