The rapid worldwide increase in mobile phone use in the last decade has generated considerable interest in possible carcinogenic effects of radio frequency (RF). Because exposure to RF from phones is localized, if a risk exists it is likely to be greatest for tumours in regions with greatest energy absorption. The objective of the current paper was to characterize the spatial distribution of RF energy in the brain, using results of measurements made in two laboratories on 110 phones used in Europe or Japan. Most (97-99% depending on frequency) appears to be absorbed in the brain hemisphere on the side where the phone is used, mainly (50-60%) in the temporal lobe. The average relative SAR is highest in the temporal lobe (6-15%, depending on frequency, of the spatial peak SAR in the most exposed region of the brain) and the cerebellum (2-10%) and decreases very rapidly with increasing depth, particularly at higher frequencies. The SAR distribution appears to be fairly similar across phone models, between older and newer phones and between phones with different antenna types and positions. Analyses of risk by location of tumour are therefore important for the interpretation of results of studies of brain tumours in relation to mobile phone use.