back to article Cell phones don't fry brains, boffins say

In another blow to the cancer Cassandras crying out that cell phones rot your brain, a new Scandinavian study was released on Thursday indicating that cell-phone usage doesn't lead to an increased risk of brain cancer. Being scientists rather than fear-mongers, however, the researchers from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden …


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  1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Move along...

    So once again, another waste of time and reasearch money, because in the end no one still has a bloody clue about whether the wonder gadget of the late 20th century, cooks a mean brain stew or not!

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: Move along...

      Yeah, uhm, I take it you're not terribly familiar with how science works, right? Disproving with a decent confidence *some* possible links between cellphones and cancer, while not as good as disproving *all* of them with 100% confidence, is still a nice, interesting result.

      If you want people shouting that they have The Answer and noone can contradict them because it's The Truth, you've got to look elsewhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Move along...

        "If you want people shouting that they have The Answer and noone can contradict them because it's The Truth, you've got to look elsewhere."

        To religion?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Go green

          Not religion, just go to the data fiddling climate change people.

    2. The Mole 1

      No a waste

      It doesn't look like a waste of time to me, they have shown that there doesn't appear to be any detectable increase in the risk of getting a brain tumor after a 5-10 year period. They could have found the opposite which would have definitely been worth the time and money?

      Or are you saying that scientists should only perform research where we know what the results will be in order to justify the expense of doing the research?

    3. Claus P. Nielsen

      re: Move along...

      What this study shows is that if there is a brain tumor risk associated with mobile phone use, it is extremely small.

      Since this study is performed on a relatively homogenous genetic group, a case can be argued that other genetic groups could be more susceptible, but that is just speculation.

      The "it might take longer" argument is crap. Of course it might sometimes take longer than 5-10 years for cancer to develop, but even if the average "incubation time" is closer to 20 years, there would be a large variation in this "incubation time", so for some people it would take a significantly shorter time to develop. Since these people don't show up in the statistics, the associated average "incubation time" is either extremely long or the risk is extremely small - or both.

      The remaining tiny potential risk of brain cancer from mobile phone use should be compared to the number of lives that are saved on a daily basis due to the presence of mobile phones in emergencies.

      Definitely worth the risk.

  2. Nick Stallman

    Yeah but...

    Yeah but what if, just what if, extended mobile phone usage causes our bodies to turn in to zombies in 1000 years?

    They must be banned!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I've long thought we should just have done with it and get back to clubbing each other.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    $1 per phone


    "Which is good news to the US researchers who this September urged another US congressional committee to levy a one-dollar-per-phone tax on all mobile phones to pay for further research. ®"

    sort of like, hey , could you raise taxes to pay for our climate research because its going to gegt REALLY bad, look, our data says, 4 degrees rise, NO; 6 degrees, still not enough research money, hahah, 8 DEGREES...BWHAHAHAH

    Cynical, moi? .... excuse me, Al Gore is knocking at my door....

  4. lukewarmdog

    What happens

    In a million years of phone usage?

    Surely conclusively proving that phones do not increase cancer in five years of usage is less than useful, maybe phone cancer only kicks in after 10 years, maybe 20 years!

    I suggest we pay scientists to study it FOREVER and pay for it by taxing phone users. If phones are made too expensive to use because of this taxation then that will just prove my point that they were clearly unsafe!

    My pint is to help insulate me against the madness.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Thats what I call real science.

    This is the result it can mean this....

    Of course we all know that mobile phone use causes global warming

  6. AndrewH

    Out of interest...

    Since most men keep their mobile phone in their trouser pocket, and that's where it'll spend most of its time, have any studies been done on the incidence of testicular cancer over the last 20 years or so?

    I think I'll keep my tinfoil underpants on for the time being, just in case..

  7. Pawel 1
    Paris Hilton

    My electromagnetism professor

    used to laugh at what various (pseudo-)medics claim about effects of cell phone usage. He always reminded us that impedance of our body is huge when compared to impedance of the air outside it - so most of the radiation is reflected at the boundary (and this has additional bonus of having better coverage when you keep your phone near your acting-as-a-directional-antenna body.

    And according to this : (page 83 of the PDF), he is quite right - for Cell phone frequencies of operation, head will only absorb ~1/1000th of the incident power, reflecting the rest.

    So if we assume for a moment that our brains are pure water, and the cell phone transmission power is 3 W (from here: ), and volume of the brain is 1.5 litres (, then heating it up by 1 degree Celsius (something that medics will definitely notice and not ignore) will take 4200*1.5*1/(3x10^-3) = 2 100 000 seconds ~= 583 hours ~=24 days non-stop, assuming no heat is ever lost to the environment.

    Paris, cause even though she didn't have an electromagnetism professor, she surely can use google and high-school thermal physics to see that claiming that cell phone can actually heat the brain by any measurable amount is totally nuts.

    1. IT Vampire

      thank you

      Thanks Pawel and thanks nameless electromagnetism professor. I'd also like to remind the board of a little concept my psychology professor's taught me: "Correlation is not causation". Unless they can actually follow a group of people over a lifetime with one group using cellphones and one group using no cellphones then there is very little a study like this can prove or disprove the hypothesis of "cellphones cause brain cancer". Just because a group of people used cellphones and had no significant increase of brain cancer doesn't mean that the cellphones don't cause cancer. There can very well be a third variable (let's say, improved nutrition) that nullified the brain cancer causing effects of cellphones. I'm just saying this for the sake of argument and do actually agree with Pawel and the laws of electromagnetism.

  8. duncan campbell

    non ionizing radiation

    Has long been known to denature DNA via COOKING....

    ...which is not particularly carcinogenic.

    The rubbish about cellphones was encouraged to disguise the

    fact that they spray REALLY POISONOUS SHIT on the power-line

    right of ways to keep the weeds down.


  9. Mage Silver badge


    Don't stare into strong RF (like concentrated in a Waveguide). That will cook your eyes. No cancer. Just cataracts.

    "There is an invisible Cat in that chair!"

    > Plonk <

    "you didn't feel her when you sat down because she leapt away when she saw you coming"

  10. Dave Gregory

    Makes no difference

    The anti-scientific wingnuts who are convinced that phones cause cancer, that vaccines cause autism and that wi-fi and microwaves cause all kind of unlikely bullshit illness have absolutely no history of listening to evidence. They decided what was true in their pathetic little internal universes and no amount of rationality will ever - EVER - get them to shut the fuck up.

    You can wave this kind of study at them forever and they'll just bleat out the same nonsense over and over.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Anti science

      Are these the same fuck wits who thought exposure to radiation from nuclear blasts was "a bit iffy", or those same mouth breathers who complained that asbestos causes lung cancer? Or what about those idle arts graduates who held the mornic belief that mad cow disease was SOMEHOW related to eating beef reared in a particular way...

      ...these fuck wits have to understand that sciene is always right, especially when it's wrong.

      1. Dave Gregory

        No, AC,

        They're the ones who don't accept that they're wrong even when large-scale, highly soundly methodologically designed research and analysis demonstrate that they are.

        You know, the ones who say "My neighbour has wi-fi, and I get headaches, therefore the two things are causally related". The same ones who force me into suffering crap phone reception because they won't let anyone build a new mast within half a mile of a local school. The ones who endanger the health of my friends kids by not getting theirs vaccinated.

        Now, go RTFA. "...but rather that it simply proved that no cell-phone causation could be discovered in their study of 59,984 brain tumor sufferers... the increased risk in this population is too small to be observed, the increased risk is restricted to subgroups of brain tumors or mobile phone users, or there is no increased risk.

        "Our finding that brain tumor incidence rates were either stable, decreased, or continued a gradual increase that started before the introduction of mobile phones, is consistent with mobile phone use having no observable effect on brain tumor incidence."

        60 000 a big enough sample for you?

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "The study doesn’t answer the question of what happens after 50 years."

    PHONES CAUSE ALZHEIMER! PEOPLE OF 80 AND OVER FACE HIGH RISK AFTER DECADES OF EXPOSURE! We will interview Neurotic Lady after this message....

  12. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    People who think mobile phones cause cancer

    are the same lot who are convinced the LHC is going to end the universe. These scientists are being properly circumspect and following the evidence - i.e. there IS no statistcally significant evidence that mobiles do anything to your brain. The idiots who say otherwise do so because they lack the proper education to understand the physics of how mobiles work, which would highlight just how much bollocks they are talking.

  13. Steven Jones


    It's certainly true that if cellphone usage did increase cancer by a very large factor within 5 (or even 10) years usage, then we would know about it. However, if the extra risk is very low (and if it does exist at all, it will be), or, like asbestos exposure, the effects are not seen for 30 years or more then you certainly wouldn't know now.

    Epidemeliogical studies are very poor indeed at detecting low risk factors, expecially where there are many counfounding factors (and with cellphone usage there will be lots of those involving lifestyle, class, age and so on). Even where the effects are very strong, as with asbestos exposure or smoking, it can take several decades before we can be certain of the effects. We cannot, for instance, say with any degree of certainty how many extra deaths there will be as a results of the Chernobyl disaster to within two or three orders of magnitude (there are some statistically significant local effects, but that doesn't work across wider areas).

    Most likely, even if there was some form of extra cancer risk involved with cellphone usage, the rate will be so low that we could never be certain one way or another. of course it is equally impossible to prove a negative in this case, so there will always be alarmist articles from time-to-time. Personally I think it very unlikely that there is a significant effect, mainly because the radiation isn't ionising and the warming effects are low due to the relatively small amounts of power. Whatever the case, there are likely to be many, many more obvious risk factors in your life than using a cellphone.

  14. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    50 years

    It is quite correct to say that five years of testing does not tell you what will happen in 50 years. It is only a guide. It is also quite correct to point out (as the Scandanavians do) that there may be very small fractions of the population who are very much more vulnerable, who might be missed in this survey. (In medical matters, genetics might be a factor and there are a handful of cases known where that puts racial groups at different levels of risk.)

    However, it is *also* quite correct to say that the *cost* of any damage that does occur in 50 years time (rather than 5) is much less. Partly this is because a large fraction of the affected users will have died in less interesting ways over that same time. Partly it is a simple question of amortising the cost over 50 years instead of 5. Mostly, though, there is this thing called progress. It is inconceivable that we'll be using the same frequencies at the same strengths in 50 years time. Even within 10 years, I can see the majority of handsets using much lower strength signals on a different waveband to talk to a nearby VoIP router.

    The US pundits are therefore talking bollocks. Perhaps they've been sitting too close to a 400kV power line and their brains have gone soggy.

  15. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Ericsson T28 and T39

    .. had a stubby sticky-out aerial at the top of the case. If you were on a call for a while, the earlobe in contact with the aerial would feel particularly hot. I wonder If my left ear will become a great cancerous cauliflower in later life?

    1. Dale Richards

      Re: Ericsson T28 and T39

      Most people find their ear feels hot after they've been on a mobile call for more than a few minutes.

      You can get the same effect without a phone by holding your hand to your ear for a few minutes.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Someone tell these brain scientists..

    ...that it's not rocket surgery!

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Patterns of Deceit.

    Redoubtably more mickey mouse research backed by big corporations.

    - Yes lead is safe in fuel.

    - Yes asbestos is safe in buildings.

    - Yes tobacco is safe to smoke.

    - Yes Fluoride is safe is water.

    - Yes transmitting radiation to your brain is safe also.....

    The list is endless!

    Anybody see the pattern?


    1. Dale Richards
      Thumb Down


      Mobile phone use is dangerous because some other things turned out to be dangerous. Can't fault that logic.

      And don't be trying to scare ignorant people with the word "radiation". All of the lights in your house are kicking out non-ionising electromagnetic radiation, but I'll bet you don't sit in the dark for fear of frying your brain.

      Or maybe you do...

  18. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    I see a pattern

    Of ACs who spout the same techno-psycho-babble without signing a name to it, like anonymous shouts in a crowd of sheeple.

    My ear feels warm when I hold my SonyEricsson K850i up to it for a period. And my friend's Treo 700wx, and my home phone, and my cat. The commonality: each produces its own heat.


    I like the progress point as well. Although, I do not suspect that phones will continue using the same signal strengths over time as towers and phones each become more sensitive, or we discover sub-space communications (feh.)

    Paris,she produces heat, too, but she might cause cancer... ban her or tax her!

  19. Richard 102

    A little physics

    The earth's magnetic field is about 0.5 gauss and is constantly at the surface of your skin, including your skull. A cell phone will produce a magnetic field of (at most) a few micro-gauss. If the magnetic field of a cell phone can cause cancer, we're about 4.5 billion years too late to do anything about it.

    1. Pawel 1

      Re: A little physics

      Ever cared to notice a difference between a _changing_ and a _static_ field? Static magnetic field can only (worst case) cause some iron atoms to move - as most people don't usually go red on their faces due to haemoglobin moving towards extremities when looking along North-South (or vice versa) line, I judge this to be rather insignificant.

      Changing magnetic field induces electric current, which can cause heating of non-perfect conductors.

      The two are rather different in what they can cause and magnitudes necessary to achieve any measurable effect, so I'd rather not compare them in this way.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    If in 20 or 30 years time we find out it does cause cancer, who should I sue?

    Think I'll start taking note of how long I keep each phone and sim.. just in case!

    So that's...

    Siemens, T-Mobile - 1 years compensation

    Sharp, Vodaphone - 2 years compensation

    Motorola, O2 - 1 years compensation

    Sony Ericsson, O2 - 6 months and counting....

    Wait, could I just sue the scientists for getting it wrong?

    "No, this was only theory. We didn't test enough people and it depends what they ate and if they've been through the LHC portal more than once and who was President in the US and... ".

    Ah screw it, I'm a 34 year old Scot, I'm already well past middle aged anyway....

    - Where's the Whisky or Vodka icon??

  21. jake Silver badge

    Well, one thing's for certain ...

    Cell phone use rots teenage brains ... at least judging by the slack-jawed, drooling micro-cephalics we see every day, struggling to find their way out of the local highschool, furiously texting the idiot they are walking side-by-side with ...

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Cell phones don't fry brains, ...

    ... *people* fry brains.

    (With less than no apologies at all to the NRA, if that's in the least bit possible).

  23. Graeme Hill

    I wonder......

    ..... if all the people who say mobile phones cause brain cancer actually use mobile phones themselves. Bet they do, and i also bet they would be the first people to complain if there was no mobile coverage in their home area, after they vetoed the mobile companies putting up a new cell tower down the road from them.

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