Mobile phones and thyroid tumours

April 27, 2024

The global incidence of thyroid cancer has been growing rapidly. Thyroid cancer is now the most common cancer of the endocrine system and is projected to be the fourth most prevalent cancer by the end of the decade.

Mobile phone use has also been growing globally.

Could the two be connected?

Quite possibly, say researchers from China in a recent paper that examined the risks factors for this disease.

‘It has been established since the 1940s that radiation is an independent risk factor for TC [thyroid cancer], and mobile phones are also a source of radiation,’ they say. ‘The number of mobile phone users has also increased tremendously. In 2016, the total number of global mobile phone users reached 7.5 billion, indicating a significant increase in usage. Smartphones are classified as non-ionising electromagnetic field devices, potentially carcinogenic to humans. Due to the antenna being located at the bottom, the thyroid gland in the neck is more susceptible to exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic radiation than the brain.’

The authors refer to research showing that long-term and heavy mobile phone use increased the risks of small thyroid tumours and to studies showing that people with some genetic characteristics are more vulnerable to developing thyroid cancer if they use mobile phones.

Why might this be the case?

The authors explain that ‘Studies have shown that non-ionising radiation can cause oxidative stress by interfering with oxidative repair and damaging cellular components, including DNA, which can eventually lead to cancer. Specifically, electromagnetic radiation can interfere with the production of antioxidants that neutralise free radicals. The body normally produces antioxidants that neutralise free radicals, but interference from electromagnetic radiation leads to an increase in free radicals, causing oxidative damage to cells. This explains why cell phone exposure is associated with an increased risk of cancer.’

Although the jury might still be out on the connection between mobile phone radiation and thyroid cancer, it seems like a good idea to reduce exposure as a precaution.


Yi Shen et al, Modifiable risk factors for thyroid cancer: lifestyle and residence environment, Endokrynologia Polska DOI: 10.5603/ep.97258 ISSN 0423–104X, e-ISSN 2299–8306

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