Do mobile phones cause cancer?

No. So far, the best scientific evidence shows that using mobile phones does not increase the risk of cancer.

There also aren't any good explanations for how mobile phones could cause cancer. The radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation that mobile phones or phone masts transmit and receive is non-ionising and is very weak. This non-ionising radiation does not have enough energy to damage DNA and cannot directly cause cancer.

But research is still continuing, to make sure there aren’t any potential long-term effects. And we continue to monitor any new evidence.

Can 4G or 5G mobile networks cause cancer?

4G or 5G networks rely on radio waves to work just like older mobile phone networks. The difference with 4G or 5G networks is that they use higher frequency waves than older mobile networks, but they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA to cause cancer.  

As 4G or 5G technologies are still relatively new, research into this field is still ongoing.

There are many cancer myths that haven’t been proven to cause cancer. However, there are proven causes of cancer, and things you can do to reduce your risk. Follow this link to find out more.

Image showing that mobile phones, plastic bottles and cosmetics do not cause cancer

We regularly review new research on the causes of cancer to make sure our information is up to date and based on the best quality evidence. We develop our information by looking at lots of research carried out over many years. So, although new research comes out all the time, it is unlikely that one new study would change our position on a topic.  

Some studies are better than others at telling us about how different factors affect cancer risk. These are some of the things we consider:

  • Did the study look at cells, animals or people?

Studies in animals and cells can help scientists understand how cancer works, but they can’t always tell us how it’s relevant to humans. So we focus on studies in people.

  • How big is the study and how long did it go on for?

Studies on small numbers of people aren’t as reliable, because results are more likely to happen by chance. And studies that only follow people for a short amount of time can miss long-term effects. So we mainly look at studies that follow thousands of people over many years.

  • Did the study account for other factors that could affect someone’s cancer risk?

There are lots of factors that can affect someone’s risk of cancer. Studies should take known risk factors into account. For example, if a study is looking at air pollution and lung cancer, it should also look at whether participants smoked.

  • Where is the study published and who funded it?

It’s important to see if a study is published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. This means that other experts have checked the results. It’s also important to know who funded the study, as this can affect the findings. For example, Cancer Research UK disregards research funded by the tobacco industry.

How to find accurate information on cancer

Sometimes news outlets exaggerate stories about cancer. It’s helpful to think about some of the questions above to judge a news story. But the most important thing is to get information from a trusted source– for example our website and the NHS.

One way of knowing if you can trust health information is by checking if the Patient Information Forum (PIF) has accredited it. The PIF makes sure that information is based on up to date evidence and is high quality.

The Patient Information Forum tick looks like this.

You can read more about spotting fake news on cancer on our blog. 

International Agency for Research on Cancer. Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 2: radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. IARC Monograph - Vol 102. 2013.

International Agency for Research on Cancer. Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 1: Static and Extremely Low-Frequency (ELF) Electric and Magnetic Fields. IARC Monograph - Vol 80. 2002.

Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR). Comprehensive review on mobile phone technologies finds no solid evidence of health effects. Heal Prot Agency. 2012 ; (Accessed October 2019).

Amoon AT, Crespi CM, Ahlbom A, et al. Proximity to overhead power lines and childhood leukaemia: an international pooled analysis. Br J Cancer. May 2018:1. doi:10.1038/s41416-018-0097-7

 

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