Mobile telephones and cancer--a review of epidemiological evidence

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2004 Sep-Oct;7(5):351-84. doi: 10.1080/10937400490486258.


There is considerable public concern about possible long-term adverse health effects of mobile phones. While there is scientific controversy about long-term health effects of high-frequency electromagnetic fields lasting for at least 50 yr, the rise and success of mobile telecommunication made it necessary to investigate the problem more comprehensively and assess the possible risk cautiously because never before in history has a substantial proportion of the population been exposed to microwaves in the near field and at comparably high levels. Because the mostly localized exposure target region is the head, most epidemiological studies focus on brain tumors. Overall nine epidemiological studies have been published, four from the United States, two from Sweden, and one each from Denmark, Finland, and Germany. Seven studies were mainly on brain tumors, with one investigating in addition to brain tumors salivary gland cancer and another cancer of the hematopoietic and lymphatic tissues, and one examining intraocular melanoma. All studies have some methodological deficiencies: (1) too short duration of mobile phone use to be helpful in risk assessment, (2) exposure was not rigorously determined, and (3) there is a possibility of recall and response error in some studies. Nevertheless, all studies approaching reasonable latencies found an increased cancer risk associated with mobile phone use. Estimates of relative risk in these studies vary between 1.3 and 4.6 with highest overall risk for acoustic neuroma (3.5) and uveal melanoma (4.2), and there is evidence for enhanced cancer risk with increasing latency and duration of mobile phone use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Phone*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects
  • Epidemiologic Research Design
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Microwaves / adverse effects
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health
  • Registries
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology