ISIS Press Release 24/05/07
Microwaves from wireless mobile phone transmitters may be more
potent than lower frequency electromagnetic fields in promoting cancer Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
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Evidence linking weak electromagnetic radiation (EMR) to leukaemia
and other cancers has been fast accumulating in recent years [1-3] ( Electromagnetic Fields Double Leukemia Risks , Mobile Phones & Cancer , SiS 18; Electromagnetic Fields, Leukaemia and DNA Damage , SiS 24).
Such ‘non-thermal' effects of EMR – due to levels well below that
sufficient to bring about any heating – have been observed even before
World War II  ( Non-Thermal Effects , SiS 17).
During the cold war period, a four-fold excess of cancer cases was
diagnosed among the staff of the American Embassy in Moscow that had
been secretly irradiated with microwaves at well below the threshold
set in current guidelines. The US State Department study on this
episode was described in a paper published in 1997 . This was among
the earliest evidence for non-thermal effects of microwaves, and many
studies are now confirming the high cancer risks of people exposed to
microwaves from mobile phone base stations and transmitters around the
world. Microwaves are no different from EMRs in the lower frequency
range in that respect; except that microwaves may be even more potent
in promoting cancer and other illnesses  ( Drowning in a Sea of
Microwaves, the Wi-Fi Revolution , SiS 34).
Ten year study in a German city found cancer risk trebled
In June 1993, a GSM transmitter antenna was set up in the Southern
Germany city of Naila, and became operational since September 1993. The
transmitter antenna has a power of 15dbW (31.6W) per channel in the 935
MHz range. In December 1997, an installation from another company was
Several doctors living in Naila decided to respond to the call by
Wolfram König, President of the Federal Agency for Radiation
Protection, to collaborate in assessing the risk posed by mobile phone
radiation. They carried out a study to examine whether people living
close to transmitter antennas had increased risk of cancer .
They found that the proportion of newly developed cancer cases was
significantly higher among those who had lived during the past ten
years at a distance of up to 400m from the cellular transmitter site,
compared to those living further away, and the patients fell ill on
average 8 years earlier. In the years 1999-2004, five years after the
transmitter has been installed and operating, the relative risk of
getting cancer had trebled for the residents within 400 m of the
installation compared to inhabitants outside the area.
For the purpose of the study, an inner and an outer area were
defined. The inner area covered the land within a distance of 400 m
from the transmitter, the outer area comprise land further than 400 m.
In the inner area, additional emissions come from the secondary lobes
of the transmitter. Thus, the outer area has significantly reduced
radiation intensity. Computer simulation and measurements both show
that radiation in the inner area is 100 times higher compared to outer
area. The measurements of all transmitter stations show that the
intensity of radiation from the cell phone transmitter station in Naila
in the inner area was higher than the electromagnetic fields from
radio, television, or radar, according to measurements made in previous
Data gathered from nearly 1 000 patients covered almost 90 percent
of the local residents, and all patients had been living during the
entire observation period of 10 years at the same address. The social
differences are small, there is no ethnic diversity, no heavy industry
and in the inner area there are neither high voltage cable nor electric
trains. The average ages of the residents are similar in the inner and
For the entire period from 1994 to 2004, the odds ratio (OR) for
getting cancer in the inner, strongly exposed area compared to the
outer area was 2.35. The average age of developing cancer was 64.1
years in the inner area, whereas in the outer area it was 72.6 years, a
difference of 8.5 years. The average for Germany as a whole for
developing cancer is 66.5 years, among men, 66 and women 67.
The new cancer cases showed a high annual constant value.
Considering only the first 5 years, there was no significant increased
risk of getting cancer in the inner area. However, for the period 1999
to 2004, the OR for getting cancer was 3.38 in the inner area compared
to the outer area. Breast cancer topped the list, with an average age
of 50.8 year compared with 69.9 years in the outer area, but cancers of
the prostate, pancreas, bowel, skin melanoma, lung and blood cancer
were all increased
Four fold cancer risk in Israel
Researchers from Tel-Aviv University, Israel, compared 622 people
living near a cell-phone transmitter station for 3-7 years who were
patients of one health clinic in Netanya, with 1 222 controls who get
their medical services in a clinic located nearby, with very closely
matched environment, workplace and occupational characteristics .
The exposure to mobile phone radiation began one year before the start
of the study.
The cell-phone transmitter came into service in July 1996, and
people in the first health clinic live within a half circle of 350 m
radius from the transmitter. The antenna has a total maximum
transmission power of 1 500 W at 850 MHz, with a 50 Hz modulation. Both
the measured and the predicted power density in the whole exposed area
were far below 5.3 mW/m 2 , and hence far below the current guidelines.
There were 8 cases of different kinds of cancer diagnosed in a
period of just one year (July 1997 to June 1998): 3 cases of breast
cancer, one of ovarian cancer, lung cancer, Hodgkin's disease (cancer
of the lymphatic system), osteoid osteoma (bone tumour) and kidney
cancer. This compares with 31 cases per 10 000 a year in the general
population of Israel, and 2 per 1 222 in the matched controls of the
The relative risk of cancer was 4.15 for those living near the
cell-phone transmitter compared with the entire population of Israel.
As seven out of eight cancer cases were women, the relative cancer
rates for females were 10.5 for those living near the transmitter station and 0.6 for the controls relative for the whole town of Netanya
One year after the close of the study, 8 new cases of cancer were
diagnosed in the microwave exposed area and two in the control area.
Mobile phone use in Sweden
Sweden has a long history of mobile phone use in a relatively
uniform population, which is ideal for studying the health impacts of
exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
Analogue phones operating at 450 MHz were introduced in Sweden in
1981, and was at first used only in the car with fixed external
antenna. Portable analogue 450 MHz phones were introduced in 1984, and
analogue 900 MHz phones came into use between 1986 and 2000 .
The digital system GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication)
started in 1991 and has increased sharply in recent years to become the
most common phone type. This system uses dual band, 900 and 1800 MHz.
From 2003, the third generation of mobile phones, 3G or UMTs (Universal
Mobile Telecommunication System) started operating in Sweden at 1 900
Desktop cordless phones also depend on wireless technology. The
800-900 MHz analogue system was introduced in 1988, and digital
cordless telephones (DECT) that operate at 1900 MHz have been in use
The Nordic radiation protection authorities as well as the Swedish
work environmental board recommend hands free devices for employees,
but very few workplaces offer them.
Almost everyone has a cell phone today in Sweden, and the country
very likely saturated with mobile phone transmitters. The use of
cellular and cordless telephones has increased dramatically during the
past decade, and with it, concern over the health impacts of microwave
exposure, and the brain is the main target organ.
Increased risk of brain tumours
Since the latter half of the 1990s, cancer researchers at the
University of Örebro, Sweden, have carried out six case-control
studies: three on brain tumours, one on salivary gland tumours, one
non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and one testicular cancer. Exposure level
was assessed by self-administered questionnaires .
The results showed that the odds ration (OR) of acoustic neuroma (a
non-malignant tumour of the auditory nerve) was 2.9 for analogue
cellular phones, 1.5 for digital cellular phones and cordless phones.
The corresponding OR for astrocytoma (a tumour of astrocyte nerve cell)
grade III-IV was 1.7, 1.5 and 1.5. The ORs increased with latency
period, with the highest estimates at >10 years from first use.
Lower ORs were found for astrocytoma grade 1-II, and no association was
found with salivary gland tumours, NHL or testicular cancer, although
as association with NHL of T-cell type could not be ruled out.
In a further review of 18 studies on brain tumours , two cohort
and 16 case-control, the results show that mobile phone use for more
than 10 years give a consistent pattern of an increased risk for
acoustic neuroma and glioma (a tumour that begins in a glial cell), and
risk is highest for the side of the brain next to the mobile phone.
The increased risk of glioma with mobile phone use for more than ten
years was confirmed by other scientists in a population case control
study in three regions of Germany, the odds ratio was 2.2 .