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Do cellphones actually give you cancer?

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Ben321:
According to a new study (which has been reported by various news outlets) cellphone RF has been linked to an increase in brain cancer. How accurate is this study? And what exactly would be the cancer causing mechanism from non-ionizing radiation? Specifically, the results of this study are that cellphone use in excess of 17 minutes per day over a period of 10 years, is associated with a 60% increase in risk of getting a brain tumor. Here's a couple articles about it.
https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/07/01/health-risks-of-cell-phone-radiation/
https://www.dailycal.org/2021/07/06/uc-berkeley-professor-links-cellphone-radiation-to-increased-risk-of-brain-cancer/

I notice that the study doesn't outright claim it causes it, but rather claims that such cellphone use is "associated with" such an increase in the risk of cancer (though the implication seems to be that it causes it). I don't understand exactly how RF could cause brain cancer though. The mechanism couldn't be through the direct breaking of atomic bonds, because RF is not ionizing radiation. I suppose it could be from heating, or induction. If from heating, even a slight increase in temperature, because heat is by definition a vibrating of atoms and molecules, it could be that atoms in the cells bang into each other more if the vibrations are strong enough, and this could result in some unintended chemical reactions being triggered that should not be happening, or disruptions of normal chemical reactions that should be happening. Also with the induction possibility, the RF drives a small electric current in the body. Such current could interfere with normal chemical reactions in the body (as  lots of chemicals in the body are ionic compounds), or in some cases trigger undesired chemical reactions. DNA damage isn't necessarily the only cause of cancer. The DNA just provides instructions for how the cell should operated. If the normal operations of the cells is disrupted through other means, it could also theoretically cause cancer, thus the unintended chemical reactions I described above could theoretically trigger cancer.

SiliconWizard:
That's still a question that has inconclusive answers so far.
A summary can be found here: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html

As you said, the probability of RF radiation of this kind causing direct DNA damage is very low, so if there is anything, this must be through another mechanism. That nobody seems to know yet. But yes, there are a number of studies showing increased risk of cancer. Some of them are not recent either. Correlation is not causation though, so it's pretty much impossible to draw a conclusion from them.

Just a thought here,  but the damage mechanism, if it indeed exists (which I just don't know), could be triggered by a complex loop. Possibly involving the immune system. That could be why experimenting on isolated cells in vitro would not show us anything much...

Ben321:

--- Quote from: SiliconWizard on July 08, 2021, 08:22:30 pm ---That's still a question that has inconclusive answers so far.
A summary can be found here: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html

As you said, the probability of RF radiation of this kind causing direct DNA damage is very low, so if there is anything, this must be through another mechanism. That nobody seems to know yet. But yes, there are a number of studies showing increased risk of cancer. Some of them are not recent either. Correlation is not causation though, so it's pretty much impossible to draw a conclusion from them.

Just a thought here,  but the damage mechanism, if it indeed exists (which I just don't know), could be triggered by a complex loop. Possibly involving the immune system. That could be why experimenting on isolated cells in vitro would not show us anything much...

--- End quote ---

I gave 2 possible mechanisms in my above post, heating, and induced current, and explained why I thought they might be able to cause cancer. What do you think about those possibilities?

Also, I just thought of another one. A strong enough electric field (such as that generated by a Tesla coil) actually CAN ionize gases at low pressure. That's why a fluorescent tube will light up when you hold it a couple feet from a Tesla coil, without any wired connection to the coil. The mechanism though is different than ionizing radiation. The concept of ionizing radiation is based on the particle model of light, with each photon having enough energy to knock an electron out of its parent atom's electron cloud. With RF generated by a Tesla coil, the amplitude of the electric field component of the RF radiation has an amplitude that exceeds the breakdown voltage of the gas (which is lower at lower pressures). If the gas in a fluorescent tube has a breakdown voltage of lets say 1000V-per-meter then a radiated RF signal only needs to have an electric field amplitude that's greater than 1000V-per-meter.  It doesn't matter the per-photon energy of the RF signal.

While this won't work for ionizing atoms in a liquid like the body's insides (which is like 70% water I think), the same basic mechanism is at work. In a gas, a strong enough electric field can yank electrons out of their parent atoms. Likewise, any electric field, can move already charged particles (ions, electrons, etc) without having to first ionize anything. Our body is full of electrolyte chemicals (that's something you need to replenish along with water when you are dehydrated), which of course are very much vital chemicals. These are ionic compounds, and when dissolved in water (such as inside your body) they are freely floating charged particles, that could be moved by an external electric field. Such movement of charged particles by an external electric field, could trigger undesired chemical reactions, or interfere with correct chemical reactions, inside our body's cells.

So while to an average person RF may seem safe as it's technically "non-ionizing radiation", once you actually understand how it interacts with the body, you will suddenly see several possibilities for how it could be harmful, potentially even something that could trigger cancer.

SiliconWizard:

--- Quote from: Ben321 on July 08, 2021, 08:43:55 pm ---
--- Quote from: SiliconWizard on July 08, 2021, 08:22:30 pm ---That's still a question that has inconclusive answers so far.
A summary can be found here: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html

As you said, the probability of RF radiation of this kind causing direct DNA damage is very low, so if there is anything, this must be through another mechanism. That nobody seems to know yet. But yes, there are a number of studies showing increased risk of cancer. Some of them are not recent either. Correlation is not causation though, so it's pretty much impossible to draw a conclusion from them.

Just a thought here,  but the damage mechanism, if it indeed exists (which I just don't know), could be triggered by a complex loop. Possibly involving the immune system. That could be why experimenting on isolated cells in vitro would not show us anything much...

--- End quote ---

I gave 2 possible mechanisms in my above post, heating, and induced current, and explained why I thought they might be able to cause cancer. What do you think about those possibilities?

--- End quote ---

They could make sense. But my comment above was for a good reason: in vitro studies on cells have already been conducted. If the mechanism involved cells and their internals alone, at least cells from the tissues that would typically develop cancerous cells, I guess we would have been able to prove it by now. This is why I suggested that it could involve much more than just individual cells.

Now the possible effect on the immune system that I suggested could itself come from heating, or induced current. One possibly interesting in-vitro experiment (that I don't think has been conducted, but it may have been!) would be to work on different kinds of immune cells, and observe stuff like, for instance, possible cytokine production... instead of observing any possible direct effect on cells from specific tissues, such as brain cells.

I certainly don't mean to claim that I know everything that has been studied on this topic though. Maybe all of this has already been thoroughly investigated. But I'm just under the impression that we have done relatively little due to very inconclusive real-world data and thus very low suspicion of potential threat.

Another point is that cancer is still a very complex issue, and most often develops over very long periods of time. It's still extremely hard to find experimental models that can mimick the same process while being much shorter.

Ben321:

--- Quote from: SiliconWizard on July 08, 2021, 09:10:14 pm ---
--- Quote from: Ben321 on July 08, 2021, 08:43:55 pm ---
--- Quote from: SiliconWizard on July 08, 2021, 08:22:30 pm ---That's still a question that has inconclusive answers so far.
A summary can be found here: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html

As you said, the probability of RF radiation of this kind causing direct DNA damage is very low, so if there is anything, this must be through another mechanism. That nobody seems to know yet. But yes, there are a number of studies showing increased risk of cancer. Some of them are not recent either. Correlation is not causation though, so it's pretty much impossible to draw a conclusion from them.

Just a thought here,  but the damage mechanism, if it indeed exists (which I just don't know), could be triggered by a complex loop. Possibly involving the immune system. That could be why experimenting on isolated cells in vitro would not show us anything much...

--- End quote ---

I gave 2 possible mechanisms in my above post, heating, and induced current, and explained why I thought they might be able to cause cancer. What do you think about those possibilities?

--- End quote ---

They could make sense. But my comment above was for a good reason: in vitro studies on cells have already been conducted. If the mechanism involved cells and their internals alone, at least cells from the tissues that would typically develop cancerous cells, I guess we would have been able to prove it by now. This is why I suggested that it could involve much more than just individual cells.

Now the possible effect on the immune system that I suggested could itself come from heating, or induced current. One possibly interesting in-vitro experiment (that I don't think has been conducted, but it may have been!) would be to work on different kinds of immune cells, and observe stuff like, for instance, possible cytokine production... instead of observing any possible direct effect on cells from specific tissues, such as brain cells.

I certainly don't mean to claim that I know everything that has been studied on this topic though. Maybe all of this has already been thoroughly investigated. But I'm just under the impression that we have done relatively little due to very inconclusive real-world data and thus very low suspicion of potential threat.

Another point is that cancer is still a very complex issue, and most often develops over very long periods of time. It's still extremely hard to find experimental models that can mimick the same process while being much shorter.

--- End quote ---


I think that any given RF exposure is VERY unlikely to cause the damage needed to trigger cancer, but multiple exposures increase the chance that the exact right set of events will be triggered by the RF. I think that it may involve multiple cells, but no reason to assume immune cells. Since the chemical reactions I mentioned being triggered by RF may not turn a single cell cancerous, you are right it may require multiple cells. But if one of those cells is disrupted by the RF in a way that causes it to have improper interactions with adjacent cells, that then may very well result in some of the surrounding cells to become cancerous, especially if they too had various incorrect chemical reactions due to RF exposure. It may require just the right set of bad reactions in each cell, in a cluster of several cells, in order for one of them to become cancerous. But when it does become cancerous, it will then do what defines it as a cancer cell. It will rapidly multiply and develop into a tumor, that encroaches on and damages surrounding tissues. All it takes is one cell becoming cancerous to develop a cancer tumor. So I would not at all be surprised to learn that strong enough RF in certain frequency ranges can trigger the formation of some kinds of cancer.

In fact, if I'm not mistaken, that's why old microwave ovens need to be checked for leaks before being used. Even a small leak, which results in a weak signal escaping from the microwave oven, while it won't lead to burns, could give cancer to anybody within a few feet of the device.

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