Mobile phones and brain tumours

May 15, 2023

Could using a mobile phone increase the risk of a person developing a brain tumour?

A new study from South Korea has shown that it could.

‘South Korea is a country with a fast-growing and extremely high cell phone penetration rate since the introduction of cellular phones,’ said the study’s author, Professor Jinyoung Moon from Inha University Hospital’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In fact, mobile phone ownership has increased from zero in 1991 to 57% (2000), to 97% (2009) and 135% (2019).

‘[I]n current society, nearly all people are using their mobile phones not only for calling but also for nearly everything in their daily lives, such as searching for information (web-surfing), watching videos (YouTube), connecting to social network services (Facebook or Tweeter), recording schedules, etc.,’ says Moon. ‘What is worse is that they use their mobile phones as a morning alarm device, leaving their mobile phones beside their head all night.’

To determine whether mobile phone use was a brain tumour risk, Moon compared brain tumour rates with the number of mobile phone subscriptions. He acknowledged that this was a fairly ‘crude’ approximation of exposure, but that exposure was hard to determine, given that people now use mobile phones at varying distances from their body and not just against their heads.

The study found that mobile phone exposure increased risks of three benign brain tumours and three malignant brain tumours:

  • benign neoplasm of meninges; benign neoplasm of brain and other parts of central nervous system; and benign neoplasm of brain, supratentorial

  • malignant neoplasm of cerebellum, except lobes and ventricles; malignant neoplasm of the frontal lobe; and malignant neoplasm of the temporal lobe.

Moon said that the presence of malignant brain tumours in the frontal lobe and temporal lobes is consistent with exposure to mobile phone radiation and recommended that people take steps to reduce their exposure.

Jinyoung Moon, ‘The relationship between radiofrequency-electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and brain tumor: The brain tumor incidence trends in South Korea,’ Environmental Research, Volume 226, 2023, 115657, ISSN 0013-9351, 

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