How Much Cell Phone Use Causes Cancer?

There has been a concern for years that cell phones can cause cancer. Some feared the radiofrequency waves (RF waves) that come from the phones can lead to tumors over time. Are you at risk of developing a tumor by using your cell phone? And if so, how much cell phone use causes cancer?

How Cell Phones Are Thought to Cause Cancer

RF waves can be absorbed into the body. They are forms of non-ionizing radiation. Since  cell phones emit RF waves, many people fear that prolonged exposure to cell phones will lead to the development of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, specifically in the brain. The increased use and availability of cell phones has sparked this concern, especially since the International Telecommunications Union estimates 5 billion cell phones are in use at this time.

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

Lab studies as well as studies on humans have thus far concluded that there is no direct link between the development of cancer and the use of cell phones. The amount of RF waves emitted by most cell phones is very small. These waves do not cause enough heat to create an imminent danger. They cannot penetrate the DNA inside cells.

Exposure to ionizing radiation, like that used in radiation therapy, will increase a person’s risk of cancer. But at this time, non-ionizing radiation like that in cell phones, microwaves and radar, is not known to cause cancer.

There was a study published in 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed an increase in glucose metabolism on the side of the brain closest to the cell phone after a 50-minute conversation. Researchers have yet to determine what the health outcomes may be for increased glucose metabolism.

How to Reduce RF Exposure

While there is no concern with cell phones causing cancer at this time, you could do some things to reduce the amount of RF exposure you experience. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use your phone when it has the strongest signal. Weak cell phone signals make your phone work harder to establish a connection. If you use your phone in a strong area, you will have the least RF exposure possible.
  • Use your phone close to a tower. This may not always be possible, but if you can get close to a cell phone tower where the connection is strong, you will be able to keep your RF exposure low.
  • Use your phone in low traffic areas. For instance, Times Square may not be a great place to use a cell phone because there are so many cell phone users around you. The more users, the stronger your waves have to be.
  • Limit the amount of time you talk on the phone. Longer conversations will obviously lead to longer exposure times.
  • Check your phone’s specific absorption rate (SAR). This measures how much RF energy your body is likely to absorb when using the phone. If you can find a phone with a lower rate, you might want to use that instead. Note these levels represent the absolute highest energy level you will go through. You won’t experience nearly this much with normal phone use.

Should You Be Worried?

For now, there does not seem to be any link between cell phone use and cancer. How much cell phone use causes cancer? None at this time. Is that to say further research won’t indicate something different? No. As far as we know though, your cell phones are just as safe to use as corded phones and radios. The increase in cell phone use is not correlated with the increase in detected cancer cases. That seems to have more to do with earlier detection. For now, there does not appear to be any danger in using your phone.


American Cancer Society
Mayo Clinic
U.S. National Library of Medicine
National Cancer Institute

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.