Scientific Progress - Wireless Phones and Brain Cancer: Current State of the Science

George L. Carlo, PhD, MS, JD, and Rebecca Steffens Jenrow, MPH, Wireless Technology Research, LLCWashington, DC

In This Article


Context: The current science is not definitive about health risks from wireless phones; however, the legitimate questions about safety that have arisen from recent studies make claims of absolute safety no longer supportable.
Objective: The objective of this paper is to outline for primary care providers the results of the most current research on the possible impact of wireless phone use on human health. Presented are study results from Wireless Technology Research (WTR) program, the 7-year, $27 million effort funded by the wireless industry in the United States, that represents the world's most comprehensive research effort addressing this issue to date. Science-based recommendations for consumer interventions and future research are presented.
Data Sources: Original studies performed under the WTR program as well as other relevant research from around the world.
Study Selection: This article presents a synopsis of the peer-reviewed in vitro and in vivo laboratory research, and the peer-reviewed epidemiology studies supported by the WTR, as well as a summary of other relevant work.
Data Extraction: Only peer-reviewed scientific studies are presented, primarily WTR-sponsored research. In addition, results of the WTR literature surveillance program, which identified other relevant toxicology and epidemiology studies on an ongoing basis, are presented. These studies are presented in the context of their usefulness in providing intervention recommendations for consumers.
Data Synthesis: Following a qualitative synthesis of specific relevant non-WTR research and a critical assessment of the WTR results, the following represents the current state of scientific understanding relevant to the public health impact of wireless phones: laboratory studies appear to have confirmed that radio frequency radiation from wireless phone antennas is insufficient to cause DNA breakage; however, this same radiation appears to cause genetic damage in human blood as measured through the formation of micronuclei. An increase in the rate of brain cancer mortality among hand-held cellular phone users as compared to car phone users, though not statistically significant, was observed in the WTR cohort study. A statistically significant increase in the risk of neuro-epithelial brain tumors was observed among cellular phone users in another case-control study.
Conclusions: As new data emerge, our understanding of this complex problem will improve; however, at present there is a critical need for ongoing and open evaluation of the public health impact of new science, and communication of this science and derivative intervention options to those who are potentially affected.