Mobile phones, mobile phone base stations and cancer: a review

Int J Radiat Biol. 2005 Mar;81(3):189-203. doi: 10.1080/09553000500091097.


There have been reports in the media and claims in the courts that radiofrequency (RF) emissions from mobile phones are a cause of cancer, and there have been numerous public objections to the siting of mobile phone base antennas because of a fear of cancer. This review summarizes the current state of evidence concerning whether the RF energy used for wireless communication might be carcinogenic. Relevant studies were identified by searching MedLine with a combination of exposure and endpoint terms. This was supplemented by a review of the over 1700 citations assembled by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety as part of their updating of the IEEE C95.1 RF energy safety guidelines. Where there were multiple studies, preference was given to recent reports, to positive reports of effects and to attempts to confirm such positive reports. Biophysical considerations indicate that there is little theoretical basis for anticipating that RF energy would have significant biological effects at the power levels used by modern mobile phones and their base station antennas. The epidemiological evidence for a causal association between cancer and RF energy is weak and limited. Animal studies have provided no consistent evidence that exposure to RF energy at non-thermal intensities causes or promotes cancer. Extensive in vitro studies have found no consistent evidence of genotoxic potential, but in vitro studies assessing the epigenetic potential of RF energy are limited. Overall, a weight-of-evidence evaluation shows that the current evidence for a causal association between cancer and exposure to RF energy is weak and unconvincing. However, the existing epidemiology is limited and the possibility of epigenetic effects has not been thoroughly evaluated, so that additional research in those areas will be required for a more thorough assessment of the possibility of a causal connection between cancer and the RF energy from mobile telecommunications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment