Assessment of Genotoxicity in Human Cells Exposed to Modulated Electromagnetic Fields of Wireless Communication Devices

Genes (Basel). 2020 Mar 25;11(4):347. doi: 10.3390/genes11040347.


Modulated electromagnetic fields (wEMFs), as generated by modern communication technologies, have raised concerns about adverse health effects. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies them as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2B), yet, the underlying molecular mechanisms initiating and promoting tumorigenesis remain elusive. Here, we comprehensively assess the impact of technologically relevant wEMF modulations on the genome integrity of cultured human cells, investigating cell type-specificities as well as time- and dose-dependencies. Classical and advanced methodologies of genetic toxicology and DNA repair were applied, and key experiments were performed in two separate laboratories. Overall, we found no conclusive evidence for an induction of DNA damage nor for alterations of the DNA repair capacity in cells exposed to several wEMF modulations (i.e., GSM, UMTS, WiFi, and RFID). Previously reported observations of increased DNA damage after exposure of cells to GSM-modulated signals could not be reproduced. Experimental variables, presumably underlying the discrepant observations, were investigated and are discussed. On the basis of our data, we conclude that the possible carcinogenicity of wEMF modulations cannot be explained by an effect on genome integrity through direct DNA damage. However, we cannot exclude non-genotoxic, indirect, or secondary effects of wEMF exposure that may promote tumorigenesis in other ways.

Keywords: DNA damage; DNA repair; GSM; RFID; UMTS; WiFi; electromagnetic fields; environment and public health; genomic instability; genotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology*
  • Fibroblasts / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Lung / radiation effects
  • Wireless Technology / instrumentation*