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There are three main reasons why people are concerned that cell phones (also known as “mobile” or “wireless” telephones) might have the potential to cause certain types of cancer or other health problems: Radiofrequency energy is a form of electromagnetic radiation.

Researchers have carried out several types of epidemiologic studies to investigate the possibility of a relationship between cell phone use and the risk of malignant (cancerous) brain tumors, such as gliomas, as well as benign (noncancerous) tumors, such as acoustic neuromas (tumors in the cells of the nerve responsible for hearing), most meningiomas (tumors in the meninges, membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord), and parotid gland tumors (tumors in the salivary glands) (9).Whereas one study showed increased glucose metabolism in the region of the brain close to the antenna compared with tissues on the opposite side of the brain (2), the other study (3) found reduced glucose metabolism on the side of the brain where the phone was used.Another study investigated whether exposure to the radiofrequency energy from cell phones affects the flow of blood in the brain and found no evidence of such an effect (4).Electromagnetic fields in the radiofrequency range are used for telecommunications applications, including cell phones, televisions, and radio transmissions.The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation.The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is carrying out a large-scale study in rodents of exposure to radiofrequency energy (the type used in cell phones).

This investigation is being conducted in highly specialized labs that can specify and control sources of radiation and measure their effects.

However, researchers have reported some statistically significant associations for certain subgroups of people.

Three large epidemiologic studies have examined the possible association between cell phone use and cancer: Interphone, a case-control study; the Danish Study, a cohort study; and the Million Women Study, another cohort study.

In one type of study, called a case-control study, cell phone use is compared between people with these types of tumors and people without them.

In another type of study, called a cohort study, a large group of people who do not have cancer at study entry is followed over time and the rate of these tumors in people who did and didn’t use cell phones is compared.

The dose of the absorbed energy is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight.