Do mobile phones, 4G or 5G cause cancer?

  • Using mobile phones does not increase the risk of cancer
  • 4g and 5g mobile signals do not cause cancer
  • Scientists continue to monitor phones, 4g and 5g mobile signal in case there are any long-term impacts on human health

Do mobile phones cause cancer?

No. Using mobile phones does not increase the risk of cancer. And there aren't any good explanations for how mobile phones could cause cancer.

You might have heard rumours that electromagnetic radiation or electromagnetic waves from phones are dangerous. But the radiation that mobile phones or phone masts transmit and receive is very weak. It does not have enough energy to damage DNA so is highly unlikely to be able to cause cancer.

Research is continuing to make sure there aren’t any potential long-term effects on cancer risk, but none have been found so far.

 

Does 4G cause cancer?

No, there is no good evidence that the 4G mobile network causes cancer.

Mobile networks rely on radio waves to work. 4G networks use higher frequency waves than older mobile networks, but they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA. That means that they can’t cause cancer in this way. 

As 4G technology is still relatively new, research in this field is ongoing in case of any long-term effects.

 

Does 5G cause cancer?

No there is no good evidence that the 5G mobile network increases cancer risk.

5G networks use higher frequency waves than 4G or older mobile networks, but they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA to cause cancer.  

And similar to 4G, 5G technology is still relatively new. We continue to monitor research in this field in case of any long-term effects.

 

Does keeping my phone in my bra increase my risk of breast cancer?

No. Keeping your mobile phone close to your body, including in a pocket or your bra, does not increase the risk of breast cancer.

But there are proven ways to reduce breast cancer risk, including keeping a healthy weight and cutting down on alcohol.

 

 

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 

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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