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Can Mobile Phones Cause Cancer?

Info: 1643 words (7 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Health

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The claim “mobile phones cause cancer” has a variety of topics that can be researched. The first aspect is ‘What type of radiation does a mobile phone emit?’ Mobile phones emit radiofrequency radiation (radio waves), a type of non-ionizing radiation, from their antennas (cancer.gov, n.d.). Radiofrequency radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation can be categorised into two types: ionizing and non-ionizing. Exposure to ionizing radiation, is known to increase the risk of cancer, however there is no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans (cancer.gov, n.d.). The second aspect is how does the human body absorbs the energy emitted from electronic devices. Tissue heating is the principal mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency energy and the human body (World Health Organisation, 2009). Sometimes by accident we absorb them as if our body mistakes strontium-90 for calcium and put it in our bones and teeth. We build our bodies from radioactive particles other times because they are isotopes of the element we need. The third aspect is does ionizing and non-ionizing radiation affect the body. Subsequently, the research question to be research is as follows: how much radiation can a mobile phone emit to the human body until it is deemed unsafe?

Radiofrequency from a mobile phone

Radiofrequency radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into two kinds: ionizing (e.g., x-rays, radon, and cosmic rays) and non-ionizing (e.g., radiofrequency and incredibly low frequency, or power frequency). Electromagnetic radiation is determined according to its frequency and wavelength, which is the number of cycles of a wave that pass a reference point per second. Electromagnetic frequencies are described in units called hertz (Hz). Radio frequency is measured in units called hertz which is when a radio wave is transmitted, represent the number of cycles per second. One hertz is equal to one cycle per second; radio waves range from thousands (kilohertz) to millions (megahertz) of cycles per second to billions (gigahertz). Another name for radio waves is radio frequency (RF) energy. It is a form of electromagnetic energy that consists of waves of electrical and magnetic energy that move (radiate) together through space. The location of these waves is called an electromagnetic field. Throughout the world radiofrequency fields are found because of TV broadcasting and commercial radio and from telecommunications facilities (such as mobile phone base stations). Radiofrequency exposure from telecommunication facilities is usually less than from TV broadcasting or radio broadcasting. In houses Radiofrequency sources can include mobile phones, wireless computer networks, burglar alarms, microwave ovens and remote controls. Overall, the Radiofrequency field level from household appliances is very low, and of the order of a few tens of micro watts per metre square (µW/m²). Workers can be exposed to relatively high levels of exposure to Radiofrequency fields while working in the transport, transport, communication and broadcasting industries when they work in close proximity to Radiofrequency transmitting antennas and radar systems. Industries that use Radiofrequency to heat objects can also produce high exposure to workers.  (World Health Organisation , n.d.)

Human body absorbing energy from mobile devices

Not only are radiation made by humans. Natural radioactive particles are all over and we are constantly absorbing them into our bodies. Sometimes by accident we absorb them as if our body mistakes strontium-90 for calcium and put its in our bones and teeth. We build our bodies from radioactive particles other times because they are isotopes of the element we need (i09 , n.d.). This is why governments use SAR testing to approve all new models of mobile phones before allowing them to be sold within the country. S.A.R. stands for Specific Absorption Rate and measures the amount of mobile phone radiation that is absorbed into the head or body of a simulated test dummy. It is measured in units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). The higher the SAR, the more radiation is absorbed. Australian (and European) standards limit SAR to 2.0 Watts of power absorbed per 10 grams of body tissue for phones sold here (US standards are 1.6W per gram). These standards prevent mobile phones from causing detrimental heating effects. But non-ionizing radiation may cause localized heating, or photochemical reactions may occur with possible permanent harm, depending on the energy and exposure time. Therefore, exposure should be minimized. Inappropriate or incorrect use and incorrect design increase the possibility of physical harm. (Mobile Safety , n.d.). Also, during laboratory experiments and health studies scientists have suggested that high use and long term of mobile phones may lead to certain types of cancer and health effects. These include tumours of the acoustic nerve and salivary glands, lower sperm count, headaches and effect on learning, memory, behaviour, sleep and brain cancer. (Time, 2019).

The effect of ionizing and non-ionizing to the human body

During the last 10 years, mobile devices have become an everyday part of many people’s lives. Mobile devices are low powered devices that receive and transmit microwave radiation. They work at frequencies between 450 and 2700 hertz (MHz) with powers in the range of 0.1 to 0.2 watts. There have been concerns raised that mobile devices could potentially cause cancer – specifically brain tumours, as phones are held close to the head when they are being used. In 1979, there was a report suggesting an association between residential ELF electric and magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia, many studies have analysed and examined this association. Additionally, there have been a few comprehensive reports, meta-analyses, and two new pooled analyses. In one of the pooled analysis based on nine well handled studies, no excess risk was seen for exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EFC) below 0.4 µT and a two-fold excess risk was identified for exposure above 0.4 µT. The second pooled analysis involved 15 studies based on less restrictive inclusion criteria and used 0.3 µT as the highest cut point. A relative risk of 1.7 has been reported for exposure above 0.3 μT. There is close consistency between the two studies. Unlike these results for ELF magnetic fields, there is insufficient evidence that electrical fields are associated with childhood leukaemia. Studies of childhood brain tumours or cancers at other sites and residential ELF electrical and magnetic fields showed no consistent relationship. These studies, however, were generally smaller and of lesser quality (NCBI, n.d.). It is clear that high energy (ionising) radiation such as (gamma) rays and x- rays cause genetic defects, weaken our immune system and cause cancer. Causing the media and public to naturally assume to be wary of low energy radiation such as (ELF) extremely low frequency, (electricity) radiation, (RF) radiofrequency radiation and microwaves. As a result of this, mobile devices, power lines and their base stations are major areas of public concern. After the announcement that 5G technology would be rolled out there was renewed interest in this topic.


As shown through this report, research shows that ionizing radiation can be dangerous and lead to brain tumours and cancer, but non-ionizing radiation is not as dangerous. Throughout our daily lives we are surrounded we non-ionizing radiation such as from our mobile phones, our TVs, our microwave etc. Long term exposure to non-ionizing radiation can lead to acoustic nerve and salivary glands, lower sperm count, headaches and effect on learning, memory, behaviour, sleep and brain cancer. Throughout this report, there is a main trend. All the information shows that non-ionizing radiation can be dangerous if exposed to for a long time however, if used normally it is not deemed dangerous. As such the claim “Mobile phones can cause cancer”. Cannot be supported with the research found throughout this report.


  • (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2019 , from cancer.gov: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet
  • (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2019 , from Arpansa : https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/what-is-radiation/non-ionising-radiation/radiofrequency-radiation
  • (n.d.). Retrieved May 20 , 2019 , from Mobile Safety : https://www.mobilesafety.com.au/mobile-phone-radiation-absorption-rates/
  • (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2019, from Nwo : https://www.nwo-i.nl/en/personnel/working-conditions/radiation/non-ionising-radiation/what-are-the-risks-of-non-ionising-radiation/
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  • (2019). Retrieved May 20, 2019 , from Time: http://time.com/5069317/california-mobile-phone-radiation/
  • NCBI. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK390738/
  • World Health Organisation . (n.d.). Retrieved June 2019 , from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/


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