Cellphones have transformed the way we communicate, work and live, but even though they have made so many things so much easier, they are not always worry free.
The supposed health risk from mobile phones is a story that never dies. Cellphones have been accused of causing brain cancer over the years. As we commemorate brain cancer awareness month this month, let’s take a closer look at the link between cellphones and cancer.
What type of radiation do cellphones use?
Phones emit radiation to communicate with mobile phone masts and radiation has always had a bad reputation, cancer mutations occur when ionizing radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays are used, but cellphones emit a form of non-ionizing radiation called radiofrequency which does not have enough energy to break DNA and cause mutations which result in cancer. When using a cellphone, tissues of the user will absorb a part of this radiation ie the caller’s hands, ears, scalp and brain, the closer the tissue is to the cellphone antenna, the more radiation absorbed but this only results in tissue heating and the levels of energy given off by cellphones are much lower and are not enough to raise temperatures in the body.
What does research show?
Because cellphones are usually held near the head when being used, the main concern has been whether they might cause or contribute to tumours in this area including brain, head and neck and in some cases skin and testicular cancer. More importantly, there has been no evidence that cancers associated with cellphones are on the increase. The rates have stayed pretty stable over the last decade. If cellphones really did cause tumours, you would expect to see a lot more cancers of these specific cases since mobile devices were invented.
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In summary, most studies published so far have not found a link between cellphone use and the development of tumours. Several international agencies based on available evidence have evaluated the cancer-causing potential of cellphones, these include:
International Agency for Research on Cancer
Federal Communications Commission
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
National Cancer Institute
Food and Drug Administration US
American Cancer Society
In general, they agree that the evidence of a possible link is limited and more research is needed to look at possible long-term effects.
Lowering exposure to radiofrequency energy
Research is still underway, so in the meantime it is better to be safe than sorry. Why risk good health by using our smartphones in not so smart ways?
Since most Zimbabweans have nomophobia (the fear of being without your mobile phone) we need to adopt the following ways to reduce exposure to cellphone radiation.
Text or use a bluetooth|headset|speaker phone instead of calling.
Turn your phone off at night.
Never wear your phone in your pocket or bra.
Use a defender shield case to cover your phone.
Use your phone in conditions of optimum reception, not in confined space eg elevator, basement, caravan and underground station.
Equip yourself with a mobile phone with the lowest (SAR) specific absorption rate, the upper limit of SAR allowed is 1,6 watts per kilogramme of body weight.
Use landlines to make phone calls.
Try to use your phone when you have the maximum number of bars indicating the best reception. When the signal is poor, your phone emits more radiation.
Still the lack of increased rates of cancers caused by cellphone radiation suggests that if phones have any effect on our risk of developing cancer, it seems to be minuscule compared to everyday risks we are happy to take. My personal advice is that while research is ongoing to determine whether cellphones really cause cancer or not, limiting alcohol, not smoking followed by maintaining a healthy diet and keeping active are the most effective ways to reduce cancer risk!