Photo Illustration by Lecia Landis for Verywell Health; Getty Images Fact checked by Nick Blackmer Key Takeaways
People have long wondered whether cell phone use might cause brain cancer, but there’s been no evidence to prove this connection.
A new 20-year study from Taiwan aimed to answer this question, but it only added to the mountain of inconclusive research after finding a positive but ultimately weak, non-significant association between mobile phone use and brain cancer.
Experts say we should still be aware of the potential risks and take possible precautions in the meantime.
The conversation about whether radiation emitted by cell phones can cause brain cancer has been ongoing for years, though research has yet to prove a solid connection between the two.
A new 20-year study from Taiwan aims to answer this longstanding question. The population-based study examined whether smartphone usage over a 20-year period had any effect on the incidence and mortality rates of malignant brain cancers of its participants.
Researchers found a positive, but ultimately weak and non-significant association between mobile phone use and brain cancer.
“There appears to be a limited connection between mobile phone usage and MNB (malignant brain neoplasm) occurrence and mortality. However, it is crucial to recognize that definitive conclusions cannot be made at this point,” said Shabbir Syed Abdul, MD, MSc, PhD , a professor of artificial intelligence and digital health and a co-author of the study.
While the study offers some valuable insights, it doesn’t provide a concrete answer to the question at hand. It just shows that in tandem with a major increase in smartphone usage between 2000 and 2019, brain cancer incidence and mortality slightly increased as well.
The existing information on the subject is equally conflicting. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic non-ionizing radiations as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” while the 2020 guidelines drafted by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) suggest that “the great majority of studies have reported a lack of carcinogenic effects in a variety of animal models.”
There’s a reason science can’t quite seem to figure out a definitive answer when it comes to phones and brain cancer, said , a neuro-oncologist at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). Morrison said measuring the impact of our phones on our health over a long period of time is tricky given how much our phone use, and the phones themselves, have changed.