High exposure to radio frequency radiation associated with cancer in male rats

High exposure to radio frequency radiation associated with cancer in male rats
High exposure to radio frequency radiation associated with cancer in male rats. Credit: NIEHS

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors, according to final reports released today. There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR. The final reports represent the consensus of NTP and a panel of external scientific experts who reviewed the studies in March after draft reports were issued in February.

"The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell ," said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist. "In our studies, and mice received across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience."

The lowest exposure level used in the studies was equal to the maximum local tissue exposure currently allowed for cell phone users. This power level rarely occurs with typical cell phone use. The highest exposure level in the studies was four times higher than the maximum power level permitted.

"We believe that the link between radio frequency radiation and tumors in male rats is real, and the external experts agreed," said Bucher.

The $30 million NTP studies took more than 10 years to complete and are the most comprehensive assessment, to date, of health effects in animals exposed to RFR with modulations used in 2G and 3G cell phones. 2G and 3G networks were standard when the studies were designed and are still used for phone calls and texting.

"A major strength of our studies is that we were able to control exactly how much radio frequency radiation the animals received—something that's not possible when studying human cell phone use, which has often relied on questionnaires," said Michael Wyde, Ph.D., lead toxicologist on the studies.

He also noted the unexpected finding of longer lifespans among the exposed male rats. "This may be explained by an observed decrease in chronic kidney problems that are often the cause of death in older rats," Wyde said.

The animals were housed in chambers specifically designed and built for these studies. Exposure to RFR began in the womb for rats and at 5 to 6 weeks old for mice, and continued for up to two years, or most of their natural lifetime. The RFR exposure was intermittent, 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off, totaling about nine hours each day. RFR levels ranged from 1.5-6 watts per kilogram in rats, and 2.5-10 watts per kilogram in mice.

These studies did not investigate the types of RFR used for Wi-Fi or 5G networks.

"5G is an emerging technology that hasn't really been defined yet. From what we currently understand, it likely differs dramatically from what we studied," said Wyde.

For future studies, NTP is building smaller RFR exposure chambers that will make it easier to evaluate newer telecommunications technologies in weeks or months, rather than years. These studies will focus on developing measurable physical indicators, or biomarkers, of potential effects from RFR. These may include changes in metrics like DNA damage in exposed tissues, which can be detected much sooner than cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration nominated RFR for study by NTP because of widespread public use of cell phones and limited knowledge about potential health effects from long-term . NTP will provide the results of these studies to FDA and the Federal Communications Commission, who will review the information as they continue to monitor new research on the potential effects of RFR.

NTP uses four categories to summarize the evidence that a substance may cause cancer:

  • Clear evidence (highest)
  • Some evidence
  • Equivocal evidence
  • No evidence (lowest)

More information on the categories is available at ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/pubs … term/defs/index.html .


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User comments

Nov 01, 2018
Apparently, the headline could have just as easily read:

"High exposure to radio frequency radiation associated with longer life in male rats"...

Nov 01, 2018
I was wondering when the next "Cellphones cause cancer! More research (funds) needed" article would come out.

1.5-6 watts per kilogram in rats, and 2.5-10 watts per kilogram in mice.


Which is 3x to 20x the permitted local (not full body) exposure of actual cellphones.

These studies are always the equivalent of studying whether listening to the radio causes hearing damage by sending people to a rock concert for 8 hours a day for their entire lives, and concluding that yes, loud noises do damage your ears.

Nov 01, 2018
But we still don't know WHY it is damaging. at any level.

Nov 02, 2018
But we still don't know WHY it is damaging. at any level.

Actually we do know why, because tissue absorbs a portion of the high energy radiation being emitted by these devices. Did you miss something that everyone else understands?

Nov 03, 2018
Actually we do know why, because tissue absorbs a portion of the high energy radiation being emitted by these devices. Did you miss something that everyone else understands?

It's high power not high energy. RF is non-ionizing, it shouldn't do anything beyond heating the tissues. cancer typically results from ionizing radiation that causes molecular damage, RF cant.

Nov 03, 2018
I think I have seen reports that blood-brain-barrier might start leaking under radio frequency exposure. If so, then one might get more viruses and/or bacteria to brain, leading to inflammation. So better minimize exposure. One has to remember that we have been exposed to radio waves only for about 100+ years, so animals and humans have not evolved any protection against effects of it.

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