Cancer Risk: Do I Need to Worry About Smartphone Radiation


Patient Education

Cancer Risk: Do I Need to Worry About Smartphone Radiation

In our tech-savvy world, smartphones have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. We rely on them for communication, entertainment, navigation, and so much more.

As a cancer doctor, I am frequently asked about the potential risks associated with smartphone radiation and its link to cancer. Understandably, people are concerned about the impact of the technology they use daily on their health, especially when it comes to cancer. In this article, I aim to provide insight into the current understanding of smartphone radiation and its relevance to cancer risk from the perspective of a medical professional specialising in oncology.

However, what does the scientific evidence say? Do we need to worry about smartphone radiation and its link to cancer?

Understanding Smartphone Radiation:

Smartphones emit a form of electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RF) radiation. This type of radiation is non-ionising, meaning it doesn’t have enough energy to remove electrons from atoms or molecules, unlike ionising radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays, which can damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer.

The Concerns:

The concern regarding smartphone radiation and cancer primarily revolves around the potential for RF radiation to cause DNA damage, which could lead to mutations and eventually cancer. Additionally, some worry that prolonged exposure to RF radiation may increase the risk of brain tumours, particularly gliomas and acoustic neuromas.

Examining the Evidence:

Numerous studies have investigated the possible link between smartphone use and cancer risk. The largest and most comprehensive study to date is the Interphone study, coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – an agency under WHO. This study made scientific publications in 2010 and 2011, which involved thousands of participants across multiple countries, found no consistent evidence of an increased risk of glioma or meningioma (another type of brain tumour) with mobile phone use.

Similarly, a pooled analysis of several World Health Organization (WHO) studies found no clear association between cell phone use and the risk of glioma or meningioma. However, in a published report on 31 May 2011, the WHO classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Of note, this was based on limited evidence suggesting a potential but unconfirmed link between RF radiation exposure and glioma.

It's essential to note that most studies have relied on self-reported data about cell phone use, which can be subject to recall bias. Additionally, the long-term effects of smartphone use, especially among heavy users, are still not fully understood due to the relatively recent proliferation of smartphones.
From a cancer doctor's perspective, it's crucial to interpret these findings within the context of the limitations of observational studies and the challenges of assessing long-term effects in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. While some studies have reported an increased risk of certain cancers among heavy smartphone users, causality has not been definitively established, and further research is needed to elucidate any potential mechanisms underlying such associations.

Mitigating Potential Risks:

While the scientific community continues to investigate the potential health effects of smartphone radiation, there are practical steps I would advise my patients to take to minimise their exposure and mitigate any potential risks:

  1. Limit exposure: Reduce unnecessary smartphone use, especially for activities involving prolonged close contact with the device, such as lengthy phone calls.
  2. Use hands-free options: Opt for speakerphone, headphones, or Bluetooth devices to minimize direct contact between the phone and the head.
  3. Maintain distance: Keep smartphones away from the body when not in use, such as avoiding carrying them in pockets or placing them directly against the skin.
  4. Practice moderation: Strike a balance between the convenience of technology and protecting your health by incorporating regular breaks from smartphone use into your daily routine.

Although there remains some uncertainty, as a cancer doctor, I understand the importance of addressing concerns about potential cancer risks associated with smartphone radiation. While the current scientific evidence does not definitively establish a causal relationship between smartphone use and cancer, it's essential to remain vigilant and proactive in minimising exposure to RF radiation.

By adopting precautionary measures and staying informed about the latest research findings, individuals can make informed decisions to safeguard their health while enjoying the benefits of modern technology.

“Expert knowledge means better care for cancer”

Contributed by:

Dr Thomas Soh

MBBS (Singapore) - MRCP (United Kingdom)

Coureau, G., Bouvier, G., Lebailly, P., Fabbro-Peray, P., Gruber, A., Leffondre, K., ... & Baldi, I. (2022). Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study. Environment International, 159, 106809. Retrieved from

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). (2010). IARC: The Interphone Study. Retrieved from

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). (2018). IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans. Retrieved from

NIH National Library of Medicine (2011). Mobile phone use and glioma risk: comparison of epidemiological study results with incidence trends in the United States. Neurosurgical Focus, 30(5), E1. Retrieved from