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20 February 2018

NTP Cell Phone Radiation Cancer Study: A Public Health Perspective

National Toxicology Program Finds Cell Phone Radiation Causes Cancer
saferemr.com, 20 February 2018

NTP Cell Phone Radiation Cancer Study: A Public Health Perspective

The $25 million National Toxicology Program (NTP) cell phone radiation study proves that long-term exposure to low intensity, non-thermal levels of cell phone microwave radiation can cause cancer and DNA damage in an animal model. This is the second study our federal government conducted which found that low intensity microwave radiation caused cancer.

The NTP study is the missing link.

In conjunction with recently published case-control research in humans that found an association between long-term, heavy cell phone use and brain tumor risk (glioma and acoustic neuroma also known as vestibular schwannoma), and hundreds of studies that found increased oxidative stress (including stress proteins, free radicals and DNA damage) from exposure to low intensity microwave radiation, the NTP study should empower the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer to re-classify radio frequency radiation from its current classification, “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B), to “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A) or “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1).

The strongest finding in the NTP reports was increased cancer incidence in Schwann cells of the hearts in male rats exposed to cell phone radiation. These rats also exhibited twice as many total schwanommas across all organs of the body compared to control rats, but this difference was not statistically significant (6% vs. 3%).

Other organs in male rats were observed to have low incidences of tumors that exceeded those found in the unexposed controls, including the brain (i.e., glioma), the adrenal, pituitary, and prostate glands, the pancreas, and the liver.

Female rats exposed to cell phone radiation also had elevated tumor incidence in the brain (i.e., glioma) and adrenal glands.

DNA damage was observed in mice and rats of both sexes exposed to cell phone radiation. (See my earlier posts for a summary of these results.)

Why is NTP downplaying the study results now?

NTP classified the increased malignant schwannoma in male rats as “some evidence of carcinogenic activity.” Other elevated incidences of tumors were considered “equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity” because they failed to display a classic dose-response relationship. However, much of the published research on microwave radiation finds that the likelihood of a health effect does not correspond closely with the dose (or intensity) of the radiation. Rather, the frequency and modulation of the carrier waves appear to affect the organism's cell signaling processes independent of the intensity of the microwaves.

Although this is the largest and most important animal study to examine tumor risk caused by cell phone radiation, both the NTP and the FDA are now downplaying the study results. Yet, in May, 2016, the NTP was so concerned about the increased risk of schwanomma and glioma in male rats, they released a partial report with these results because these are the same types of tumors found in several case-control studies of cell phone use among humans. What explains this turnaround?

According to the new NTP report, Schwann cells are similar to glial cells. Thus, the causes of schwannoma may be similar to glioma:

"Schwann cells are similar to glial cells in the brain in that they are specialized supportive cells whose functions include maintaining homeostasis, forming myelin, and providing support and protection for neurons of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). In the PNS, Schwann cells produce myelin and are analogous to oligodendrocytes [a type of glial cells] of the central nervous system" (page 162).

NTP should analyze the overall tumor risk.

The NTP researchers did not carefully examine the overall tumor risk, that is, the risk of an animal developing any type of tumor due to cell phone radiation exposure. There are several strong justifications for conducting this analysis.

First, a 5-year, $5 million Air Force study found low incidences of various types of tumors in male rats exposed to microwave radiation. In that study, the exposed rats were three times more likely to get cancer than the control rats. The study employed much lower intensity microwave radiation than the NTP studies.

Second, early toxicology research on the effects of tobacco found low incidences of many types of tumors among animals exposed to tobacco smoke. Scientists dismissed this evidence as they assumed an agent could not cause cancer in different types of tissue. History later proved them wrong.

Finally, my preliminary analysis of the overall tumor risk using summary data from the appendices to the NTP report, found that male rats exposed to cell phone radiation were significantly more likely to develop cancer than control rats (38% vs. 25.5%; p = .021), and more likely to develop a nonmalignant tumor (70% vs. 54%; p = .003).

Male rats in the lowest cell phone radiation exposure group, 1.5 watts per kilogram, were also more likely to develop a nonmalignant tumor than control rats (74% vs. 54%; p < .001). Although cancer incidence for this low exposure group was greater than the control group, the difference was not statistically significant (34% vs. 25.5%; p = .163).

I questioned the omission of the overall tumor risk analysis during the recent NTP press conference. Will NTP conduct this analysis, adjusting for survival time and litter differences, in time for the peer review of the NTP reports in late March?


Microwave News published a story today, "'More Than a Coincidence': New Large Animal Study, Like NTP’s, Links RF to Schwannoma of the Heart" which describes a new major study that replicates the primary finding in the NTP study.

The Ramazzini Institute in Italy will soon publish a study in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Research, which found that cell phone radiation caused malignant schwanomma in the hearts of male rats.

In this study of 2,448 male rats, the animals were exposed to 1.8 GHz GSM cell phone radiation for 19 hours per day during their lifetime.


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