Go ahead and use your cell phone: it won’t cause cancer, says the U.K.’s top health experts, diminshing worries that people endanger their lives by staying connected.
Scientists with the country’s Health Protection Agency have concluded that everyone in the U.K. gets exposed to “universal and continuous” low-level radio frequencies from cell phones, Wi-Fi, televisions and radios.
Despite the constant exposure, the scientists said, they did not find any definite links between the frequencies and cancer or other problems with brain function or infertility.
There are many studies on the safety of mobile phones, according to the BBC, but the HPA’s study is by far the most expansive.
It also contradicts a World Health Organization project that determined cell phones cause certain types of brain cancer. Early last year, 31 scientists from 14 countries urged the WHO to re-examine its guidelines for safe mobile phone use.
However, while the U.K. scientists said there’s no conclusive evidence cell phone radiation is dangerous, the scientists recommended research continues on cell phones’ long-term effects. In addition, the HPA suggested that “excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged,” striking a slightly cautionary note.
The debate about the dangers of cell phones has been going on almost ever since the advents of mobile devices. For example, in 2004, Swedish scientists said that people who use cell phones for 10 or more years could end up having tumors, and in 2007, scientists said 10 minutes of cell phone use can cause changes in a person’s brain.
But as more people started using cell phones without ill effects, new studies debunked the earlier ones. Last year, Danish researchers found no evidence of a link between cell phone use and cancer. They concluded, after following 350,000 adults 30 years of age and older for more than a decade, there was no difference in cancer rates between people who used a cell phone and those who did not, including no risk of developing a brain tumor at the site where a cell phone is held close to the head.
Since there are so many differences of opinion — including in the U.K. scientists’ report itself — researchers will likely be divided for years to come about whether cell phones cause brain cancer or other diseases.
In addition, as cell phone use grows as people give up their landlines and switch to mobile devices, scientific studies about phones’ dangers will likely shift, and researchers may change their opinion as researchers are able to study more users.
Finally, “recall bias” limits some studies, as cancer sufferers can have a tendency to over-report behaviors such as cell-phone use as they search for the reasons behind their condition, a factor that can skew survey data.
When it comes to cell phone use and cancer, there is still no certainty about which side of the debate the evidence may ultimately land heaviest on — and until there’s a definitive answer, it may be prudent for people to remember that too much of anything usually isn’t a good thing.