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Curiosities: Is it true that cell phone use can cause health problems?

August 3, 2010

The major concern with the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones is brain cancer, but most studies find “nothing definitive,” says Bruce Thomadsen, a professor of medical physics and human oncology at UW–Madison.


The issue is very difficult to study for many reasons. For example, cell phone technology changes; phone users devote a varying amount of time to phoning. Nevertheless, Thomadsen notes that Interphone, a large series of studies on the topic, reported on May 17 that most cell phone users have little or no risk of brain cancer. 

Interphone, which was sponsored by the World Health Organization, is one of many studies that shows “no consistent evidence for a relationship between cell phone use and brain cancers,” Thomadsen says. However, several recent studies suggest that cell phone radiation may reduce the movement of sperm, which could link heavy cell phone use to male infertility and perhaps other problems.

“It’s troubling, and there’s nothing incredibly definitive, but the effect on human sperm warrants more research,” he says. The worst health hazard of cell phones, Thomadsen adds, is likely to appear on our roads, in the form of auto accidents caused by inattentive, cell phone-obsessed drivers.

Tags: cancer