01 September 2016
Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer? Maybe Yes and No
by Roxanne Nelson, BSN, RN, medscape.com, 24 August 2016
Does using a mobile phone increase the risk of developing brain cancer?
As many times as it has been asked, there is seemingly no simple answer to that question, as studies continue to produce conflicting results.
But the answer may lie somewhere in the middle between a yes and a no, according to Dariusz Leszczynski, PhD, adjunct professor of biochemistry, University of Helsinki, Finland.
In an article on the Conversation website, Dr Leszczynski poses the intriguing question: What if both views are correct?
It could be possible that mobile phone radiation itself does not cause cancer but that long-term exposure increases the risk of developing cancer when other causes are part of the picture.
This hypothesis of cocarcinogenicity may explain the apparent discrepancy that has been seen in previous studies of this issue, says Dr Leszczynski.
However, two experts approached by Medscape Medical Newswere not convinced.
IARC Status: "Possibly Carcinogenic"
Approximately 30 epidemiologic studies have attempted to evaluate the association between cell phone use and the risk for brain and salivary gland tumors, as previously reportedbyMedscape Medical News.
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic" (Dr Leszczynski was on the IARC working group that came to this conclusion). That conclusion was based largely on the results of the large INTERPHONE international case-control study (Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Jun;39:675-94) and a series of Swedish studies led by Hardell Lennart, MD, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.
In addition, there have been a number of experimental studies involving cell cultures and animal models, and data from the animal studies lend support for Dr Leszczynski's hypothesis.
Findings from the experimental models that were evaluated by IARC experts in 2011 suggested that mobile phone radiation alone does not cause cancer, but there may be "cocarcinogenic" properties. Mobile phone radiation increased the development of cancer in animals simultaneously exposed to low doses of known chemical carcinogens in five studies, he pointed out.
The idea of cocarcinogenicity is not brand new ― it "has been around for a number of years," Dr Leszczynski told Medscape Medical News, "but the use of it to reconcile discrepancy between opposing views is a novel one."
One of the animal studies, he noted, was recently replicated and confirmed the cocarcinogenic effect of mobile phone radiation (Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2015 Apr 17;459:585-90).
To date, there has only been a handful of cocarcinogenicity studies in which animals or living cells were simultaneously exposed to chemicals and to mobile phone radiation, "so there is not much to go on," he said. "This poses a serious problem for proper risk estimation."