"Low incidences" of cancers were found in the brains and hearts of male lab rats that were exposed to typical amounts of cell phone radiation over two years, according to a recently released study that is reopening the discussion about whether cell phone and smartphone use can be hazardous to the health of users.
The study, conducted by researchers at The National Toxicology Program (NTP) within the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences inside the National Institutes of Health, "found low incidences of tumors in the brains and hearts of male rats, but not in female rats" after the animals were exposed to typical amounts of cell phone radiation over nine hours daily from when they were born until turning 2 years old, according to a May 27 post by the agency.
"For the studies, rats and mice were exposed to frequencies and modulations currently used in cellular communications" by wireless carriers in the United States, the NTP said. The early findings are far from conclusive, but are the latest results in a body of research that has included a wide range of theories over the last few years.
The peer-reviewed study, "Report of Partial Findings From the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley SD Rats (Whole Body Exposure)," was released to give consumers and other officials more information, but additional studies and research are continuing with mice, according to the agency.
"NTP has provided these findings to its federal regulatory partners to enable them to have the latest information for public health guidance about safe ways to use cellular telephones and other radiofrequency radiation emitting devices," the agency continued. The complete results from all the rat and mice studies that are being conducted will be available for peer review and public comment by the end of 2017, according to the NTP.
In particular, "the occurrences of two tumor types in male Harlan Sprague Dawley rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation (RFR), malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart, were considered of particular interest, and are the subject of this report," the 74-page document states. Interestingly, no similar cancers were found in any of the female rats in the experiments.
The low incidences of the rat cancers were found in animals that were exposed to RFR from typical Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile 14 Communications (GSM)] wireless systems used in U.S. wireless networks, the agency stated. "The review of partial study data in this report has been prompted by several factors. Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to RFR could have broad implications for public health," the agency continued. "There is a high level of public and media interest regarding the safety of cell phone RFR and the specific results of these NTP studies."
While the early report includes findings about rat brains and hearts, it "is not a complete report of all findings from the NTP’s studies" and will be filled out in more detail in the future, the NTP stated.
For cell phone users who want to learn how to protect themselves while using the devices, the FDA's Website provides steps people can take to minimize radiation exposure, including reducing the amount of time spent using the devices and using speaker mode or a headset to place more distance between a user's head and the devices.
Previous studies on cell phone use and cancers have seen a variety of results over the years. In December 2014, a study at the University of Manchester in England about potential health risks to humans from mobile phones and power lines concluded that exposure to these magnetic field sources is not harmful, according to an earlier eWEEK story. That research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, found "no scientific evidence that exposure to electromagnetic radiation at low levels poses a health risk."
A previous study released in August 2009 had completely different results, finding a significant risk of brain tumors for cell phone users due to device design flaws, according to an earlier eWEEK article.