May 2016 - An American government study has uncovered a connection between radio emissions from mobile phones and cancer in rats. The result of this study caused much commotion in the US media last week and The Wall Street Journal  ran a headline “Cellphone Cancer Link Found in Government Study”. News-station NBC referred to a ‘game-changer’ in the debate about the harmfulness of mobile phones.”

Studying rats

Researchers using 2500 rats exposed them to EM-radiation for an average of 9 hours per day for 2 years.  The male rats ended up with higher ratios of two specific types of rare cancers:  Gliomas (tumours of the Glia cells in the brain) and Malignant Schwannomatosis of the heart (tumours of the Schwann cells that can also occur on the auditory nerves). These tumours did not occur with female rats or rats that were not exposed to EMR (control group).

Hypothesis contradicted

The 25 million-dollar American investigation  was carried out by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a section of the ‘US Department of Health & Human Services’. The study is due to be completed in 2017. Remarkable is that the investigation was initiated to test the hypothesis that radiation from mobile telephones cannot affect human health. Despite the fact that the percentages of tumour growth found are fairly small, the consequences could well be huge. The investigation report was released to the public on 26 May this year and it states: “Due to the widespread, worldwide usage of mobile communications by users of all ages, even a small increase in illness as a result of EM radiation could have enormous implications for public health.”

Controversy

The suspicion that the radiation emitted by cellphones can cause cancer is not new. In 2011 the World Health Organisation classified the radio emissions from mobile phones as possibly cancer-inducing.  The initial findings of the American research are not expected to immediately put an end to the controversy surrounding radiation from mobile communications. Rats are not human beings after all. Also a recent 30-year long Australian study has concluded that the radiation from mobile telephones does NOT cause brain tumours.

Health Council

In the meantime the Netherlands Health Council issued a new verdict on 1 June about the relationship between cellphone emissions and cancer. The American study was not included in this. Although the council does not see any reason for taking precautions to reduce exposure, it does advise keeping exposure levels as low as reasonably possible. They view any connection as unlikely – but cannot rule it out altogether.