Cell Phones and Cancer

cell phones and cancerThey are called international experts. They work for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization (WHO), and are highly respected in their field. Their recent statement about cell phones and their relationship to cancer has drawn a ho-hum reaction from the garrulous public. This august body has reviewed possible connections between the kind of electromagnetic radiation in cell phones and irregularities in body tissues that might cause brain tumors, both cancerous and non-cancerous, and tumors of the auditory nerves and salivary glands.

Oddly, last year’s studies on the same topic found no direct link of cell phone use to tumor formation anywhere in the body. But there are groups that recoil at the hint of the slightest relationship. Studies conducted in Europe, the United States and New Zealand found that brain tumor patients had not used their cell phones any more often than unaffected persons. Most of the studies fail to show a dose-response relationship, such as would be sought in drug trials. What has been shown in Swedish studies is an increased risk for tumors on the side of the head where the cell phone was held, especially with ten or more years of use. Nonetheless, the WHO team grouped cell phones with category 2B carcinogens that include internal combustion exhausts and DDT, as well as postmenopausal estrogen-progesterone therapy, potassium bromate (a bread additive banned in Europe, Canada, the UK and Brazil, but not in the U.S.), and fiberglass, all of these being modified by the term, “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Some of the verifiable dangers of cell phone use include crashing into your garage door, misjudging the arc of a left-hand turn, and getting a ticket in a venue that outlaws the use of such a device while driving.  None of these, however, is 100% predictable.  There are too many “ifs” to allow a definitive answer.

When they became widely available in the early 1990’s, cell phones were suddenly de rigueur.  From the outset they emanated radio waves, the frequencies of which fall between microwaves and FM radio waves.  This might make you feel as though you were caught between a rock and a hard place, being forced to make a decision between your jazz station and the TV dinner.

Your cell phone is more a glorified walkie-talkie defined by a geographical grid in which it will work.  Inside the myriad grids are cells that cover smaller areas.  Each cell uses a set of frequencies to provide service in its specific zone.  Because the power of these frequencies is controlled according to distance from the tower, thus limiting range, the same frequencies may be used in neighboring cells.  Modern antennas are wireless, so they may be set up almost anywhere:  church steeples, trees, atop flagpoles and on tall buildings.  They can even be blocked by trees and topography, just like radio waves.  Your cell message may be routed through the air to a landline, and then through the air again to the person you are calling.  Other times the message goes from your phone to the transmission tower, and then to your recipient.

If you happen to be moving while conversing, the signal weakens as you leave your cell.  At that point your call is handed over to an antenna with a stronger signal.  As long as wireless providers get along with each other, your signal may be relayed to a different provider than yours, who then keeps you in touch.  This is called roaming.

Cell phones cannot cause cancer by directly affecting DNA.  These radio frequency waves are not nearly so strong as x-rays or ultra-violet light.  They are non-ionizing, like visible light waves, heat waves, and FM radio waves.  However, what they do is to heat up the body’s tissues, just as the microwave does to your Idaho potato.  Heating from the inside out, a microwave causes molecules to vibrate and to rub against each other—friction.  This creates the heat that cooks your dinner.  In this cooking technique, a medium-rare piece of meat would be cooked on the inside and pink on the outside, exactly the opposite of what happens inside a broiler, oven, or sauté pan.  Purportedly, the same action occurs when you use a cell phone.  You get hot in the head, if only by a fraction of a degree.  It is speculated that this affects only the cornea of the eye (which, because of lack of vascularization, has no blood vessels to keep it cooled down) more than the rest of the head.  Yet, no cataracts or other pathologies have been noticed.

There is no definitive answer to this poser other than an increase in glucose metabolic activity at the site of cell phone-head contact.   The significance of that is unknown.  People with pacemakers have no special warnings to follow, even if the garage door opens when they cough.  Nonetheless, it is advised that they keep their cell phones out of breast pockets, which is the equivalent of staying indoors to avoid being hit by a meteor or Mary Poppins.

If you have concerns about this issue, you might want to limit cell phone usage.  If you’re a teenager reading this, forget it. You won’t listen, anyway.  You could opt to move the antenna away from your head, which means you either have to yell with all your might and listen really, really hard, or use some kind of hands-free device.  Another option is to buy a phone that gives off very low levels of electromagnetic waves.  What about cordless phones in the house, you know, the kind with a base set and a wireless handset that is lost somewhere in the sofa cushions?  Not a problem, since their power is only .17% (that’s 17/100 percent) of a cell phone.  The last alternative is two tin cans and a string, a very long string.  Except for chemistry, physics and mathematics, most sciences are not as exact as we would like them to be, and reports of their research are sometimes confusing, contradictory, or both.  In some circles these sciences are called practices.


International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (April 1998).
Guidelines For Limiting Exposure To Time-Varying Electric, Magnetic, And Electromagnetic Fields (up to 300 GHz) (PDF).
Health Physics 74 (4): 494–505.

Schüz, J; Jacobsen, R; Olsen, JH; Boice, JD; McLaughlin, JK; Johansen, C (December 2006). Cellular Telephone Use and Cancer Risk: Update of a Nationwide Danish Cohort.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 98 (23): 1707–1713.

Interphone Study Group (2010).
Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: Results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study.
International Journal of Epidemiology 39 (3): 675–694.

Volkow, Nora D.; Tomasi, Dardo; Wang, Gene-Jack; Vaska, Paul; Fowler, Joanna S.; Telang, Frank; Alexoff, Dave; Logan, Jean et al. (2011).
Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism.
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Comments on the Danish cohort study on mobile phones (in German).
Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz [Federal Office for Radiation Protection].
2007-02-22. Retrieved 2010-09-23.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Microwave Safety

microwave-ovenIn the United States, food grade containers are known not to leach harmful substances into the foods they hold, whether for storage or for microwave cooking. In most homes in the country, you’ll find a range of containers in the refrigerator, from plastics of known and unknown origin to paper to glass to metals to ceramics. Although many of us probably don’t, maybe we should care whether or not a container is safe for microwave use.

How does a microwave work?  

The oscillating waves produced by a microwave oven are similar to radio waves but much faster. They act mainly by energizing the water molecules present in a food, causing them to vibrate and to make heat. Because of the speed involved, food cooks faster than with conventional means, where heat is transferred from an external source to the material, working from the outside in by way of thermal conduction. Only substances that absorb microwaves can be heated by a microwave oven, with the food itself becoming the heat source for cooking. Heating metals in a microwave produces different, and sometimes unexpected, results. Low penetration depth results in reflection of the waves, setting up high voltage between the metal and the magnetron that is the heart of the system. When this voltage surpasses a threshold, sparks fly. Powdered metal probably would react differently. But we suggest you refrain from trying this unless you work in a science laboratory.

I heard that microwaves destroy the nutrient value of food.

Yeah, we heard that, too. The fact is that any cooking method destroys some character of a food. Using too much water in a pot to cook frozen vegetables, for example, will render water-soluble nutrients to the water, which often goes down the drain. Several studies have shown that microwave cooking, if used the right way, has no more adverse effect on food nutrition than conventional heating methods. In fact, probably because of shorter cooking time, there might even be a tendency for greater nutrient retention (Lassen, 1995). If there be a fault, it would be uneven heating. Moisture loss is more noticeable (Cross, 1982) (Quan, 1985), though, and that makes sense, since all those water molecules bumping against each other create friction, and friction creates heat.

Some studies examined the effects of microwaves on human milk. Besides the usual nutrients a baby needs, breast milk contains immunity factors, such as IgA. Microwaving to temperatures between 161°F and 208°F caused a marked decrease in anti-infective factors (Quan, 1992). We have questions about this. Who heats jarred or bottled baby food or formula hotter than the human wrist can tolerate, which is far lower than the temperature of your water heater? Doesn’t milk come from mom at about 98.6°? At temperatures up to 149°F, fatty acids, most vitamins and immunoglobin are safe (Ovesen, 1996). The hydroxo- form of Vitamin B12, which predominates in foods, appears to be degraded by microwave heating as evidenced in tests on B12-dependent organisms fed a microwaved diet (Watanabe, 1998). But this is only one such test. And most of us don’t put all our eggs into one basket. Because adults cannot metabolize the vitamin B12 from food sources anyway (we lack the gastric intrinsic factor required), we mention this study as a courtesy to the young readers. To overcome poor absorption, sublingual or injectable forms of B12 are available.

So, what should not go into the microwave?

There are some things to keep in mind when using the microwave. Most containers from the takeout place, water bottles, plastic tubs from margarine, yogurt, cream cheese, mustard and mayonnaise, and whipped toppings are not safe for microwave use. Some microwavable trays, such as those from frozen dinners, are designed for one-time use. It should say that on the package. Plastic bags of any kind belong in the trash. If the plastic containers you just bought at the dollar store do not say “Microwave Safe,” don’t use them. Choosing to microwave with a plastic lacking such a declaration doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe, but it is missing the assurance of safety. The symbol on the bottom of the container means nothing in this case.

Plastic wrap—saran—helps to retain moisture but it should not touch the food. The wrap itself is not heated by microwaves, but it will conduct heat from warmed food, and it could melt. The result would have to be an acquired taste that may present toxicity issues. The box of wrap will tell you if it’s microwave safe. Don’t even think about Styrofoam cups and dishware unless it says otherwise.

How about paper?

Paper coffee cups are occasionally lined with wax, and sometimes plastic. Overheating is the worry here. Learn to control the microwave. Many papers are manufactured with chemicals you don’t want in your mouth. You have to read the label. The dyes from printed paper towels can contain toxins. White paper towels are usually safe, but reading that affirmation on the package lets you know for sure. Paper grocery bags—or paper bags of any kind, for that matter—may contain unwanted metals or be recycled from who knows what. Waxed paper and parchment are safe in the microwave. Except for those coated with wax or a plastic film, paper plates should not be a problem. The wrapping will tell you. But plain paper plates are flimsy. The big-name companies have microwavable dinnerware. There is always a bottom line, right? Here it is: the preferred options are glass and ceramic. Still, the best habit to cultivate is to become a label reader. We said that already, didn’t we?


Anna Angela Barba, Antonella Calabretti, Matteo d’Amore, Anna Lisa Piccinelli, Luca Rastrelli
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Cross GA, Fung DY.
The effect of microwaves on nutrient value of foods.
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Anne Lassen, Lars Ovesen
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López-Berenguer C, Carvajal M, Moreno DA, García-Viguera C.
Effects of microwave cooking conditions on bioactive compounds present in broccoli inflorescences.
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Ovesen L, Jakobsen J, Leth T, Reinholdt J.
The effect of microwave heating on vitamins B1 and E, and linoleic and linolenic acids, and immunoglobulins in human milk.
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Quan R, Yang C, Rubinstein S, Lewiston NJ, Sunshine P, Stevenson DK, Kerner JA Jr.
Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk.
Pediatrics. 1992 Apr;89(4 Pt 1):667-9.

Fumio Watanabe, Katsuo Abe, Tomoyuki Fujita, Mashahiro Goto, Miki Hiemori, and Yoshihisa Nakano
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J. Agric. Food Chem., 1998, 46 (1), pp 206–210

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Electromagnetic Headaches

emf-headachesWhen it blows in the wind, we try to find out where it’s coming from. Once in a while, though, there’s so much stench we can’t identify the source. Such is the case with electromagnetic fields—EMF’s— and related wavy things. There’s so much hullabaloo about the good and the bad that we can’t decide if EMF’s are, well, good or bad. They’ve been around forever, so exposure to them is nothing new. Man-made EMF’s, from the generation of electricity, household appliances, industrial equipment and, of course, telecommunications and broadcasting, add to the apparent physiological burden already begun by the simplicity of human metabolism and Earth’s magnetic properties. Is it really a big deal?

Tiny electric currents exist in the body because of the chemistry that allows it to work, even in the absence of external electrical fields. Nerves, for example, send signals by transmitting electrical impulses. All our biochemical reactions follow the rearrangement of charged particles. Your heart responds to an electrocardiogram, right? The concern is that low-frequency electrical fields affect the human body just as they affect anything else made from charged particles. These exogenous fields, if large enough, can cause changes inside the body by stimulating nerves or muscles…or organs. Lucky for us, most exogenous currents are too small to have any ill effect, even directly beneath a high voltage transmission line. On the other hand, the biological effect of radiofrequency fields is heating, and this is the reason for scientific intervention in the placement of sources, such as phone towers.

Biological effects are measurable responses to a stimulus or to a change in the environment. Most of these are harmless, like listening to music or exercising. Changes that are irreversible or that persist for a long time might not be harmless. Electromagnetic fields above a certain level present a concern. That is understandable, and measures are taken to limit exposure, even internationally. Lower levels, over the long term, are suspected of causing unwanted biological responses, including headaches, to which some people are more or less sensitive. Cases of hypersensitivity to EMF’s have been reported for a few decades. Some researchers group them with the condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity illness. Oddly, a plethora of those reporting such sensitivity seem to fall into categories that defy characterization (Levallois, 2002). In polls and surveys, people will express a concern about the ill effects of EMF’s in the absence of personal symptoms, worrying that their cell phones may eventually cause sleep disturbances and headaches (Schreier, 2006) (Hillert, 2002).

Cell phones emit waves as long as they’re turned on and are looking for a signal from the tower. Wi-Fi, not necessarily related to wireless fidelity, contains that technology which connects electronic devices to each other and to the internet using radio waves. Some investigators claim that both can interfere with a child’s ability to learn and remember, while others feel that autistic spectrum conditions are likewise related (Herbert, 2013, parts 1 and 2). If the pharmaceutical powers control a considerable part of the economy, they deserve credit for telling us in their TV spiels that the side effects of their products are worse than the diseases they purport to treat. Powerful industrial entities have an interest in leading the unsuspecting public to believe their EMF’s are completely harmless, since they cannot be perceived by the senses, including pain receptors. If, as suspected, DNA damage actually results from EMF-induced oxidative stress, physiologic consequences can be expected and headaches to be the presentation (Wolf, 2005). Children are exposed to EMF’s at home, on the school bus, in the classroom, at the doctor’s office, and probably everywhere else, with few exceptions, if any. Cell phone standards, by the way, were established years ago and have not been revisited. We are unsure of their effects on developing brains, but, by looking at students’ academic orientation, we can guess. Most European nations forbid the sale of cell phones to those under eighteen.

Cause-effect situations are more definitive than associations or relations. Pathologies that may be associated with EMF’s are not definitely caused by them. Therefore, compared to other disease vectors, little is being done to address possibilities of EMF involvement. Some reports indicate the blood-brain barrier to become more permeable after exposure to EMF’s (Leszczynski, 2002), even from fellow riders in a public conveyance (Kato, 2012). That we are constantly bombarded with radiation is a concern of WHO and the children’s health expert panel (WHO, 2011) (ICNIRP, 2009), (IEEE, 2005). But that concern is magnified because mobile phones work close to the head, causing the distribution of energy to be direct. This raises the question of relationships/associations to glioma and neuroma (Hours, 2007) (Schüz, 2006) naturally requiring closer inspection. Because of subjectivity, no determination is possible (Cardis, 2010), although hints are numerous (Cardis, 2011).

Cancer aside, the headache issue is a global topic. In many countries, about a fourth of cell phone users polled associate headache with EMF (Thamire, 2004) (Meg, 2005) (Al-Khlaiwi, 2004) (Genius, 2012) (Kato, 2012) (Schreier, 2006). Yet, until asked, none relates the two. Talking on a mobile phone for one hour a day incurs the cumulative effect that upsets homeostasis, allowing for exposure to ten thousand watts of accrued radiation. A microwave oven emits only 2 milliwatts at two inches distance; a hundredth of that at twenty inches (FDA, 2011).

We all know that lifestyle can’t be dictated. Smokers smoke and drinkers drink.Second-hand smoke is a health matter. There is no such thing as second-hand drinkingexcept to a fetus. But there is such a thing as second-hand radiation. We seemto prefer first-hand.


Al-Khlaiwi T, Meo SA.
Association of mobile phone radiation with fatigue, headache, dizziness, tension and sleep disturbance in Saudi population.
Saudi Med J. 2004 Jun;25(6):732-6.

Augner C, Hacker GW.
Are people living next to mobile phone base stations more strained? Relationship of health concerns, self-estimated distance to base station, and psychological parameters.
Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2009 Dec;13(3):141-5.

Belyaev IY, Hillert L, Protopopova M, Tamm C, Malmgren LO, Persson BR, Selivanova G, Harms-Ringdahl M.
915 MHz microwaves and 50 Hz magnetic field affect chromatin conformation and 53BP1 foci in human lymphocytes from hypersensitive and healthy persons.
Bioelectromagnetics. 26(3):173-184, 2005.

Belyaev IY, Markovà E, Hillert L, Malmgren LO, Persson BR.
Microwaves from UMTS/GSM mobile phones induce long-lasting inhibition of 53BP1/gamma-H2AX DNA repair foci in human lymphocytes.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2008 Oct 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Cardis E, Deltour I, Vrijheid M, Combalot E, Moissonnier M, Tardy H, Armstrong B, et al
Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study.
Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Jun;39(3):675-94.

Cardis E, Armstrong BK, Bowman JD, Giles GG, Hours M, Krewski D, McBride M, Parent ME, et al
Risk of brain tumours in relation to estimated RF dose from mobile phones: results from five Interphone countries.
Occup Environ Med. 2011 Sep;68(9):631-40.

Dahmen N, Ghezel-Ahmadi D, Engel A.
Blood laboratory findings in patients suffering from self-perceived electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Bioelectromagnetics. 30(4):299-306, 2009.

Eltiti S, Wallace D, Ridgewell A, Zougkou K, Russo R, Sepulveda F, Mirshekar-Syahkal D, Rasor P, Deeble R, Fox E.
Does short-term exposure to mobile phone base station signals increase symptoms in individuals who report sensitivity to electromagnetic fields? A double-blind randomized provocation study.
Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Nov;115(11):1603-8.

FDA. 2011
Microwave Oven Radiation

Furubayashi T, Ushiyama A, Terao Y, Mizuno Y, Shirasawa K, Pongpaibool P, Simba AY, et al.
Effects of short-term W-CDMA mobile phone base station exposure on women with or without mobile phone related symptoms.
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Genuis SJ, Lipp CT.
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Herbert MR, Sage C.
Autism and EMF? Plausibility of a pathophysiological link – Part I.
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Herbert MR, Sage C
Autism and EMF? Plausibility of a pathophysiological link part II.
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Hietanen M, Hämäläinen A-M, Husman T.
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Hillert L, Berglind N, Arnetz BB, Bellander T.
Prevalence of self-reported hypersensitivity to electric or magnetic fields in a population-based questionnaire survey.
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Hours M, Bernard M, Montestrucq L, Arslan M, Bergeret A, Deltour I, Cardis E.
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Johansson A, Nordin S, Heiden M, Sandström M.
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J Psychosom Res. 68(1):37-45, 2010.

Kato Y, Johansson O.
Reported functional impairments of electrohypersensitive Japanese: A questionnaire survey.
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Kim DW, Lee JH, Ji HC, Kim SC, Nam KC, Cha EJ.
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Landgrebe M, Hauser S, Langguth B, Frick U, Hajak G, Eichhammer P.
Altered cortical excitability in subjectively electrosensitive patients: results of a pilot study.
J Psychosom Res. 62(3):283-288, 2007.

Landgrebe M, Frick U, Hauser S, Langguth B, Rosner R, Hajak G, Eichhammer P.
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Dariusz Leszczynski

Levallois P, Neutra R, Lee G, Hristova L.
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Markova E, Hillert L, Malmgren L, Persson BR, Belyaev IY.
Microwaves from GSM Mobile Telephones Affect 53BP1 and gamma-H2AX Foci in Human Lymphocytes from Hypersensitive and Healthy Persons.
Environ Health Perspect. 113(9):1172-1177, 2005.

McCarty DE, Carrubba S, Chesson AL, Frilot C, Gonzalez-Toledo E, Marino AA.
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Meo SA, Al-Drees AM.
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Nieto-Hernandez R, Rubin GJ, Cleare AJ, Weinman JA, Wessely S.
Can evidence change belief? Reported mobile phone sensitivity following individual feedback of an inability to discriminate active from sham signals.
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Schreier N, Huss A, Röösli M.
The prevalence of symptoms attributed to electromagnetic field exposure: a cross-sectional representative survey in Switzerland.
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Schuz J, Böhler E, Berg G, Schlehofer B, Hettinger I, Schlaefer K, Wahrendorf J, Kunna-Grass K, Blettner M.
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Simkó M, Mattsson MO.
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Thamire  Al-Khlaiwit,  Sultane A Meoos
Association of mobile phone radiation with fatigue, headache, dizziness, tension and sleep disturbance in Saudi population
Saudi Medical Journal 2004; Vol. (6): 732-736

Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones
Fact sheet N°193. June 2011

Wolf FI, Torsello A, Tedesco B, Fasanella S, Boninsegna A, D’Ascenzo M, Grassi C, Azzena GB, Cittadini A.
50-Hz extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields enhance cell proliferation and DNA damage: possible involvement of a redox mechanism.
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Yokus B, Cakir DU, Akdag MZ, Sert C, Mete N.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.