Scientists with the National Toxicology Program say there is some evidence that the radiation from cellphones can increase the chance of having a rare type of nerve tumor, at least in male rats.What this means for people is still up for debate.As cellphone use climbs, questions about the safety of these common devices have lingered. About 80% of Americans over the age of 13 have a smartphone, and adults spend an average of nearly 3 hours a day using one, according to a 2017 report from comScore, a data review company.The tumors that showed up in the rats are called schwannomas. They grew in the hearts of male rats, but not female rats, perhaps because the males’ larger bodies absorbed more radiation than the females, said lead researcher John Bucher, PhD. He is a senior scientist with the National Toxicology Program.Even though the tumors were in the rats’ hearts, the scientists said the finding was intriguing because previous studies have noted a higher chance of having schwannomas in the inner ears of heavy cellphone users.
In humans, schwannomas are incredibly rare and usually benign.
They were rare in the rats, too. Only 6% of the animals in the most highly exposed group got them.
The studies also found other biological effects. Pups born to exposed rats weighed less than those born to unexposed animals, for example; and they saw evidence of DNA damage in some tissues in some animals, though Bucher said he and his team didn’t fully understand the significance of those results.
In a surprise finding, radiation exposure appeared to have some positive effects. Male rats that were exposed lived longer than those that weren’t. Researchers think that may be because the radiation prevented a kidney disease that’s common in these kinds of rats.
Testing Cellphone Radiation