Effect of cell phone-like electromagnetic radiation on primary human thyroid cells

Int J Radiat Biol. 2016;92(2):107-15. doi: 10.3109/09553002.2016.1117678. Epub 2015 Dec 21.


Purpose: To evaluate the potential carcinogenic effects of radiofrequency energy (RFE) emitted by cell phones on human thyroid primary cells.

Materials and methods: Primary thyroid cell culture was prepared from normal thyroid tissue obtained from patients who underwent surgery at our department. Subconfluent thyroid cells were irradiated under different conditions inside a cell incubator using a device that simulates cell phone-RFE. Proliferation of control and irradiated cells was assessed by the immunohistochemical staining of antigen Kiel clone-67 (Ki-67) and tumor suppressor p53 (p53) expression. DNA ploidy and the stress biomarkers heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) was evaluated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS).

Results: Our cells highly expressed thyroglobulin (Tg) and sodium-iodide symporter (NIS) confirming the origin of the tissue. None of the irradiation conditions evaluated here had an effect neither on the proliferation marker Ki-67 nor on p53 expression. DNA ploidy was also not affected by RFE, as well as the expression of the biomarkers HSP70 and ROS.

Conclusion: Our conditions of RFE exposure seem to have no potential carcinogenic effect on human thyroid cells. Moreover, common biomarkers usually associated to environmental stress also remained unchanged. We failed to find an association between cell phone-RFE and thyroid cancer. Additional studies are recommended.

Keywords: Thyroid; cell phones; electromagnetic radiation; environmental stress; thyroid cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption, Radiation / physiology
  • Adult
  • Carcinogenesis / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis / radiation effects*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microwaves*
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Exposure / analysis
  • Thyroid Gland / cytology*
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology*
  • Thyroid Gland / radiation effects
  • Young Adult