Cell Phones, Bluetooth and Cancer
There has been much debate on the risk of electromagnetic fields from cell phones and blue tooth devices and the risk of cancer since the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields from cell phones as possibly causing cancer in humans.
In lab studies it has been shown that electromagnetic energy like that of cell phones can cause cellular damage through increased oxidative stress, which, in turn can cause DNA damage. Evidence from studies of populations show mixed results as far as cell phones causing cancer but there appears to be an association between long term cell phone use (greater than 10 years) and a malignant brain tumor called a glioma as well as a benign tumor of the nerve supplying the ear called an acoustic neuroma. This association may be somewhat weak, but given the large number of cell phone users throughout the world (estimated to be 5 billion people by the end of 2019) cell phone use could potentially cause a significant number of tumors that might not otherwise occur.
Given the fact that there is evidence that long-term cell phone use may be associated with the development of certain tumors it is best to evoke what is called the precautionary principle, adopting precautionary measures when scientific evidence about and environmental or human health hazard is uncertain and the stakes are high. In this case it is electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones and the long-term risk of certain cancers. At this point our understanding of the risks of electromagnetic fields emitted from cell phones is incomplete but there is some evidence pointing to a possibility of an increased risk of certain brain tumors with long-term cell phone use.
What about Bluetooth wireless headphone devices? A recent study looked at the power density exposure (rate of power that an electromagnetic field produces per unit area) of Bluetooth headphones vs cell phones. They found that the power density exposure for Bluetooth headphones was 10-400 times lower than those of cell phones. Thus, the dangers reported in the media about Bluetooth headphone use are not at all clear. At this time there is not enough data to conclude with any degree of certainty that there is or is not an increased risk of cancer with Bluetooth headphone use.
Accepting the precautionary principle there are several steps you can take to minimize electromagnetic field exposure from cell phones: text whenever possible, use the speaker option holding the phone 8-12 inches away from your head, make calls short or use a wired headset. As far as using Bluetooth wireless headphones the choice is yours, if you want to be on the safe side and minimize electromagnetic field exposure use a wired headset.
An important point to remember is that there are many other lifestyle factors that can reduce your overall risk of cancer and that reducing electromagnetic field exposure is only a small part of a cancer risk reduction strategy. In order to fully leverage lifestyle strategies for cancer risk reduction I advocate the following: maintain a normal body weight and eat a mainly plant based diet avoiding processed and fast foods, learn to manage stress through breathing exercises or meditation, get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night, exercise daily for at least 30 minutes, get outside everyday and enjoy nature, be compassionate to yourself and love yourself, enjoy energetic and nurturing social relationships, cultivate a spiritual practice, limit alcohol consumption and if you use tobacco products, quit.
1) Havas M. When Theory and Observation Collide: Can Non-Ionizing Radiation Cause Cancer? Environmental Pollution. 2017; 221:501-505.
2) Wall S, et al. Real-World Cell Phone Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Field Exposures. Environmental Research. 2019; 171:581-592.
3) Miah T, Kamat D. Current Understanding of the Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields. Pediatr Ann. 2017; 46(4):172-174.
4) Wang P, et al. Wireless Phone Use and Risk of Adult Glioma: Evidence From a Meta-Analysis. World Neurosurgery. 2018; 115:629-636.
5) Genius S. Fielding a Current Idea: Exploring the Public Health Impact of Electromagnetic Radiation. Public Health. 2007.