Posted on: July 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Last updated: September 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm

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Today, smartphones almost seem part of us, like an extension of our bodies and identities. Many of us wake up to them, having traded in our traditional bedside alarm clocks for the cell phone version. And have you been guilty of checking your inbox, Facebook and Instagram feeds before even stepping foot out of bed?  

In just a few short years, cell phones have completely infiltrated our lives, to the point where nomophobia, the fear of being without your cell phone, is a real ailment.

Even if you’re not classified as a nomophobic, chances are your phone is never more than an arm’s reach away. The average person checks their cell phone 46 to 110 times a day. In the evening, after work hours, some check their phone as often as every 6 seconds. Collectively, experts believe Americans check their phones 8 billion times a day. (1, 2)   

Questions remain, though: Is this behavior safe? And specifically, do cell phones cause cancer? With our phones so close to our bodies each day — and with 300 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. alone — you’d think safety would be a foregone conclusion. The truth is much like the early days of cigarette smoking, we just don’t know for sure. In fact, recent findings suggest we might all be better off practicing the precautionary principle when it comes to our cell phones. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you need to stop using your smartphone. You just need to be smarter about how you use it.

Cell Phone Radiation


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You may have heard about the recent preliminary findings from a well-designed U.S. National Toxicology Program study suggesting cell phones may increase the risk of certain brain tumors and another rare type of tumor. Researchers of the $25 million study determined that exposure to very high signal cell phone radiation led to a slightly increased risk of malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart in male rats. Schwannomas are tumors that form in the nerve sheath. (3)

Epidemiologist Devra Davis, MD, president of Environmental Health Trust, calls this a game-changing, global wake-up call. In an article written for Oxford University Press, she notes that the new U.S. government study “is hardly a shot in the dark or a one-off event. With this largest best-conducted animal study, we now have three different studies within the past six years where animals develop some of the same cancers from cell phone radiation as people.” (4)

Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, called this latest study “good science” and added:

The NTP report linking radiofrequency radiation (RFR) to two types of cancer marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk. The findings are unexpected; we wouldn’t reasonably expect non-ionizing radiation to cause these tumors. This is a striking example of why serious study is so important in evaluating cancer risk. It’s interesting to note that early studies on the link between lung cancer and smoking had similar resistance, since theoretical arguments at the time suggested that there could not be a link. (5)

The latest government study also detected a dose-response effect, meaning the higher the dose, the higher the risk. The results backed up previous research suggesting cell phone radiation could increase the risk of gliomas. Acoustic neuromas have also been linked to cell phone use.

In 2011, the World Health Organization listed cell phone radiation as a 2B carcinogen, meaning it’s possibly carcinogenic to humans. Since cell phones have only been in wide use since the 1990s, epidemiological studies looking for long-term risks from cell phone exposure could be missing certain threats that may not be surfacing in humans yet. (6)

Studies looking at cell phone radiation exposure and tumors and other health problems show mixed results, but we have seen concerning data, including:

  • Swedish researchers found a higher risk for tumors on the side of the head where the cell phone was held, particularly with 10 or more years of use.
  • Those who begin using cell phones as teenagers have a four to five times higher chance of being diagnosed with brain cancer.
  • Sperm die three times faster and experience triple the damage to mitochondrial DNA compared to sperm from men who are not exposed to cell phone radiation. (78)

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According to Environmental Health Trust, many studies that do not show an increased risk of tumors are shorter studies of five or seven years. In reality, it can take up to 10 years for brain tumors to develop, the organization notes.

Cell Phone Radiation Protection

Let’s look at some ways to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation.

cell phone radiation, radiation protection, do cell phones cause cancer

People having only been heavily using cell phones since the ’90s, so there’s still no definitive proof they cause cancer. (Or that they don’t.)

Still, it took decades to prove cigarette smoking caused lung cancer. I don’t recommend everyone abandon cell phones. I still use mine. I just take simple, common sense steps to keep the phone further away from my body.

I suggest you do the same. Keep it out of your bedroom while you sleep, hold the phone as far away from your body as possible when you hit “send” for a text, put it in airplane move when you’re driving or moving fast, and don’t keep your phone in your bra or in your pocket. Be sure to avoid cordless phones, too. They also emit dangerous radiation like cell phones.

Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at, and his newest book, Eat Dirt, gives readers a five-step plan to heal leaky gut once and for all.



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Josh Axe
Doctor of Natural Medicine
Doctor of Natural Medicine at Exodus Health Center Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Dr. Axe is the author of Eat Dirt and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine , and he's also the founder of , one of the world's top natural health sites that draws more than 11 million visitors each month.

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