UC Berkeley researcher links cellphone radiation to increased risk of brain cancer

Photo of woman on phone
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Campus researcher Joel Moskowitz's study demonstrates that cellphone radiation can increase the risk of cancer and nonmalignant tumors, neurological disorders and diseases and reproductive harm.

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Cellphone use of 17 minutes per day over the course of 10 years is associated with a 60% increase in brain tumor risk, Joel Moskowitz, director of the UC Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health, found through his research.

Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Moskowitz’s study shows that cellphone radiation can increase the risk of cancer and nonmalignant tumors, neurological disorders and diseases and reproductive harm. These risks are also increased by Wi-Fi radiation.

Cell tower radiation can also cause neurological disorders including headaches, fatigue, memory and sleep problems and electromagnetic hypersensitivity, Moskowitz noted.

“First, minimize your use of cellphones or cordless phones — use a landline whenever possible,” Moskowitz said in an email. “If you do use a cellphone, turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth if you’re not using them.”

In order to limit risk, Moskowitz said in the email that users should keep devices at least 10 inches away from the body and head to reduce exposure to radiation. He noted that when not in use, devices should be stored in a bag. If it is necessary for the phone to be stored in the back pocket, it should be kept on airplane mode.

Moskowitz added that a cellphone’s radiation increases when the signal is weak; he recommended only using the phone when the signal is strong.

“Cellphones are programmed to increase radiation when the signal is poor, that is when one or two bars are displayed on your phone,” Moskowitz said in the email. “For example, don’t use your phone in an elevator or in a car, as metal structures interfere with the signal.”

According to Moskowitz, there is a lack of funding for research on wireless radiation effects in the United States. He said in the email it is essential that the government and private sector protect the public and the environment by promoting wired technology. Moskowitz noted that wildlife, including pollinators, can be negatively impacted by “wireless radiation.”

He added that wired technology also consumes less energy, is more secure and is safer than wireless technology.

In both 2009 and 2020, Moskowitz worked with Seung-Kwon Myung’s team of scientists from the National Cancer Center in South Korea to conduct meta-analytic reviews of mobile phone use and tumor risk.

Moskowitz stated that in a study on cell towers in 2018, he worked with his colleagues at UCLA, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and an international team of scientists from Australia, Ethiopia, Nepal, South Africa and Switzerland.

Moskowitz indicated that he plans to publish a paper on electromagnetic hypersensitivity soon. In order to complete the research, he collaborated with 30 scientists and physicians from 11 countries.

According to Moskowitz, he intends to continue his 12th year of research on the health effects of wireless radiation, collaborating with scientists to push for biologically-based radio frequency exposure limits to protect all species of life.

Contact Andie Liu at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @andiemliu.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Joel Moskowitz is a campus professor. In fact, he is a campus researcher.