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Epidemiologic Evidence on Mobile Phones and Tumor Risk: A Review

Ahlbom, Andersa; Feychting, Mariaa; Green, Adeleb; Kheifets, Leekac; Savitz, David A.d; Swerdlow, Anthony J.eICNIRP (International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) Standing Committee on Epidemiology

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181b0927d
Cell Phones: Review Article

Abstract: This review summarizes and interprets epidemiologic evidence bearing on a possible causal relation between radiofrequency field exposure from mobile phone use and tumor risk. In the last few years, epidemiologic evidence on mobile phone use and the risk of brain and other tumors of the head in adults has grown in volume, geographic diversity of study settings, and the amount of data on longer-term users. However, some key methodologic problems remain, particularly with regard to selective nonresponse and inaccuracy and bias in recall of phone use. Most studies of glioma show small increased or decreased risks among users, although a subset of studies show appreciably elevated risks. We considered methodologic features that might explain the deviant results, but found no clear explanation. Overall the studies published to date do not demonstrate an increased risk within approximately 10 years of use for any tumor of the brain or any other head tumor. Despite the methodologic shortcomings and the limited data on long latency and long-term use, the available data do not suggest a causal association between mobile phone use and fast-growing tumors such as malignant glioma in adults (at least for tumors with short induction periods). For slow-growing tumors such as meningioma and acoustic neuroma, as well as for glioma among long-term users, the absence of association reported thus far is less conclusive because the observation period has been too short.


From the aDepartment of Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; bEpidemiology and Public Health Unit, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia; cDepartment of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; dEpidemiology, Biostatistics, and Disease Prevention Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY; and eSection of Epidemiology, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Submitted 15 July 2008; accepted 23 March 2009.

Supported by ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection).

Editors’ note: A commentary on this article appears on page 653.

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Correspondence: Anders Ahlbom, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, Box 210, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.