The old adage that ‘mobile phone emissions can cause cancer’ is a commonly held belief that doesn’t actually have a huge amount of evidence behind it. Nevertheless, a lot of people genuinely believe that they can/will develop cancer after extensive use of a mobile phone.
Amazingly, this does little or nothing to deter these very same people from using their phones all the time!
To go to the root causes of this belief, we must first talk about the pioneering work of American ophthalmologist (that’s an eye specialist) Dr. Milton Zaret. Milton was a giant in his field (and was even unintentionally name checked in a 2013 issue of ‘Batman’ – no joke). Among Dr. Zaret’s most notable accomplishments was his research into the damaging effects that microwave emissions have on the Human eye.
In 1973, Milton became the first medical doctor to testify before Congress about the hazards of microwaves. He said,
“There is a clear, present and ever-increasing danger to the entire population of our country from exposure to the entire non-ionizing portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The dangers cannot be overstated because most non-ionizing radiation injuries occur covertly, usually do not become manifest until after latent periods of years, and when they do become manifest, the effects are seldom recognized.”
It seems that there was a lot of political pressure on other researchers to discredit Dr. Zaret and his findings, which resulted in some fairly bad science, but equally in the general notion that Zaret was mistaken. However, his work was never conclusively proved, nor reliably debunked, leaving the case open to interpretation.
Although the emissions that bothered Dr. Zaret (anything from microwave ovens to radar technology) are not exactly the same as mobile phone emissions, the fundamental argument is similar. To date, nobody has been able to prove, or disprove, that mobile phones can cause cancer.
Thus, the debate rages to this day. According to WiseGeek.org,
“Since the invention of cell-phone technology, studies have been conducted to see whether they pose health risks. The concern is sensible, given that cell phones are low-powered microwave emitters, and some microwaves have been shown to pose health risks. Experts and consumers worry that keeping a microwave emitting device close to your head and your brain could put you at risk for brain cancer or other damage. The concern is sometimes greater in regard to Bluetooth headsets, as the device is placed inside your ear and therefore even closer to your brain”.
So, the old argument has now been transferred to Bluetooth Headsets (you are by no means the first person to ask this question). The key point being that the earpiece itself is actually much closer to your brain than a mobile phone. However, naysayers simply consider the level of microwave emission produced by the earpiece to be so low as to render the effects negligible.
Essentially, because the widespread use of mobile phones is a relatively recent phenomenon (although it must be said that the first mobile call was actually placed 41 years ago by Marty Cooper), it is simply too early to tell, one way or the other.
Returning to WiseGeek, their experts say that,
“Because Bluetooth® headsets are such a new feature, it is impossible to get data about long-term effects of consistent exposure. Some people suggest that within twenty years, better studies will be available, as the first generation to grow up using cell phones and head sets will effectively be guinea pigs for long-term effects. If you are truly concerned about the microwave emissions from your cell phone, skip Bluetooth® headsets and simply use the speaker-phone option that is standard on most phones. Although scientific research has not provided clear answers as to whether Bluetooth® headsets can cause cancer, this may be an area where you feel it is better to be safe than sorry”.
In conclusion, it does seem unlikely that your mobile phone can give you cancer. It seems logical enough to assume that we’d all be feeling the effects by now, after nearly two decades of mobile phone use (the second of which actually involved the majority of the population). However, nobody really knows for sure…Dr. Zaret may yet be proven right as the prophet of doom (but, of course, we have to hope not).