Does Phone Cause Cancer?

The lingering debate on whether cell phone is linked to cancer risk came on board again recently when a top official of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) claimed that substandard phone can cause cancer.

 A top official of the commission allegedly made the disclosure during a stakeholders’ workshop organised by the Ibadan Zonal office of NCC at a popular GSM Market in Ado Ekiti.

The official allegedly said that fake mobile phones had taken over the country’s phone market, stating that they have had far-reaching implications on the health of users, including the ailments of cancer.

He added that fake and substandard phones also contribute immensely to network failures and interruptions, warning that sellers of unapproved Information and Communication Technology, ICT, products were running afoul of the commission’s Act.

To curb unnecessary health risks, he reportedly advised phone sellers across the country to ensure that they patronize only the manufacturers and dealers that were approved by the NCC.

Although, NCC issued a rejoinder denouncing the widespread news that the commission linked the usage of phone with cancer, the issue still remains debatable among health experts across the globe.

There have been lots of research that have been carried out to ascertain whether the usage of mobile phone is tied to cancer ailments; none has been able to give clear and authentic link. Although, cell phones emit radiofrequency energy (radio waves) which is a form of non-ionizing radiation that has been proved to have some negative health implications. However, at present, there is no agreed or stated evidence to prove that they can boost the risk of cancer.

According to American Cancer Institute, “The frequency of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation ranges from 30 kilohertz (30 kHz, or 30,000 Hz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz, or 300 billion Hz).  Electromagnetic fields in the radiofrequency range are used for telecommunications applications, including cell phones, televisions, and radio transmissions. The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. The dose of the absorbed energy is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight.

“Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from x-rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer. However, although many studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk,” it stated.

The institute added that health effects of ionizing radiation is very limited in the sense that it only causes temperature where the cell phone is used and it may not even have the ability to determine the body temperature.

“The only consistently recognized biological effect of radiofrequency energy is heating. The ability of microwave ovens to heat food is one example of this effect of radiofrequency energy. Radiofrequency exposure from cell phone use does cause heating to the area of the body where a cell phone or other device is held (ear, head, etc.). However, it is not sufficient to measure or increase body temperature, and there are no other clearly established effects on the body from radiofrequency energy.”

Overall research on the matter is still limited. However, it should be noted that some research has seen a link between cell phones and cancer. For instance, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized cell phone use and other radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a possible carcinogen (a substances and exposures capable of causing cancer) in 2011.

A research was also conducted on rats in 2016 by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP). The study exposed rats to radiofrequency radiation that comes from cell phones for about nine hours a day for seven days a week. It was discovered that the exposed rats were more likely to develop cancers, specifically malignant glioma(tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord).

The result of the study showed that female rats didn’t experience significantly higher than normal cancer rates. 2 per cent to 3 per cent among male rats that received the highest radiation exposures contracted gliomas and 6 percent to 7 percent per cent developed schwannoma tumors in their hearts. None of the male rats in the control groups developed those cancers.

Chris Portier, a former Associate Director of NTP  who carried out the study said that the radiation level the rats received was not very different from what humans are exposed to when they use cell phones, adding that the study was a game changer they would have to look at again with a considerable detail.

Experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said they would review the study and more research on the link would emerge in few years.

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