Are cell phones altering your cells?

In the month were “the force might be with you”, an alarming article has unveiled the outcome of cell-phone radiofrequency on head and neck cancer progression (1). The research group from the University of Qatar, in collaboration with research centers in Qebec and Aleppo, revealed that cellphone radiofrequency promotes angiogenesis of the chick’s chorioallantoic membrane (CAM). In addition, the cell phone radiofrequency enhances cell invasion and colony formation of human head and neck cancer cells; this is accompanied by a downregulation of E-cadherin expression. Dr. Moustafa and collaborators found that the cell phone could activate Erk1/Erk2 in our experimental models.


The extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway is one of the major signaling pathways and it is activated by a variety of extracellular agents, including growth factors, hormones and also cellular stresses to induce cellular processes that include mainly proliferation and differentiation, but under some conditions also stress response and others. This ERK pathway contributes to the regulation of cell proliferation such as immune cells activation, synaptic plasticity such as long-term potentiation in hippocampal neurons, proliferation of endothelial cells during angiogenesis and phosphorylation of the transcription factor p53 (a linked related to cancer). They used CAM and human head and neck cancer cell lines, FaDu and SCC25, to explore the outcome of cell-phone radiofrequency on angiogenesis, cell invasion, and colony formation of head and neck cancer cells, respectively. Finally they investigated the protein expression impact of the cell phone on the regulation of E-cadherin and Erk1/Erk2 genes.Their concluded that cell-phone radiofrequency could enhance head and neck cancer by stimulating angiogenesis and cell invasion via Erk1/Erk2 activation.


Another researcher working on this topic is Dr. Nesrin Seyhan, she  is the chair of the Gazi biophysics department in Ankara (beside being a member of the Advisory committee of the WHO, a Scientific member of İCEMS and a Panel member of NATO RTO HFM). She has been studying the effect of radiation on cells for the last 20 years, focusing lately in the kind of radiation that the cell phone emits. Would you be able to leave your phone after reading the results of her research?


Besides the fact that millions of people do not have a phone, we can assume that you can be happy without this addictive device. I made the experiment multiple times, mostly because I did not have any other option (aka traveling to a different uncovered zone), and it was ok at the beginning but lately it was an awful experience. I had to change mobile plans and according with the Murphy's laws, if something can go wrong, it will... I was without a phone for a week.


A quick search in the pubmed, the scientific papers database, with the words “cell phone” gives you 10000 articles. The best one was a Korean research back from 2014 by Kim and collaborators published in PLOS One (2). They studied Smartphone Addiction in 795 students in elementary, middle, and high schools across South Korea. They conclusion was that Smartphone addiction is gaining a greater spotlight as possibly a new form of addiction along with Internet addiction. 


Other interesting study done in El Cairo showed the effects of pulsed electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones in adult rats. The researchers exposed adult rats to a daily dose of Electromagnetic radiation (EMR, frequency 1800 MHz) and sacrificed after 1, 2 and 4 months. Then, monoamines were determined by high performance liquid chromatography coupled with fluorescence detection (HPLC-FD) using their native properties. They reported that the exposure to EMR resulted in significant changes in dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin (5-HT) in the hippocampus, hypothalamus, midbrain and medulla oblongata of adult rats.


Soooo, the exposure of adult rats to EMR may cause disturbances in monoamine neurotransmitters and this may underlie many of the adverse effects reported after EMR including memory, learning, and stress (3). This results, plus other research has showed that we might feel happy every time he heard our hone ringing... and also stressed.


The good news is that a study involving a nationwide cohort study of mobile phone use, did not found increased risks of tumors of the central nervous system, providing little evidence for a causal association (4).


Obviously the mobile phone technology changed our life in a daily bases, and our social etiquette has been affected for the "staring at the phone" behavior and the "just to check updates" constant social interaction interruptions. But getting deeper in the biological effects of the phones, Dr. Nesrin Seyhan, registered a concerning alteration in the programmed cell death (aka apoptosis) in rabbits exposed to radiation.  Furthermore, exposure to 1,800 MHz may induce some pathomorphological alterations in different tissues of non-pregnant and pregnant rabbits and their infants. In other research from her group they showed that apoptosis resulted from radio frequency radiation exposure of pregnant rabbits and their infants (4). They measured the oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation levels in the brain tissue of pregnant and non-pregnant New Zealand White rabbits and their newborns exposed to RFR.  They were exposed to RFR (1800 MHz GSM; 14 V/m as reference level) for 15 min/day during 7 days. Malondialdehyde (MDA) and 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) levels were analyzed. MDA and 8-OHdG levels of non-pregnant and pregnant-RFR exposed animals significantly increased with respect to controls. 


This results are alarming and a huge "danger" sign that we should not underestimate, in Dr. Seyhan words: "There exist very few experimental studies on the effects of RFR during pregnancy. It would be beneficial to increase the number of these studies in order to establish international standards for the protection of pregnant women from RFR."


1- Head Neck. 2018 May 13. doi: 10.1002/hed.25210.

Effect of cell-phone radiofrequency on angiogenesis and cell invasion in human head and neck cancer cells.

Alahmad YM, Aljaber M, Saleh AI, Yalcin HC, Aboulkassim T, Yasmeen A, Batist G, Moustafa AA.

2-PLoS One. 2014 May 21;9(5):e97920. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097920. eCollection 2014.

Development of korean smartphone addiction proneness scale for youth.

Kim D, Lee Y, Lee J, Nam JK, Chung Y.

3-Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Jul;17(13):1782-8.

The effect of pulsed electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone on the levels of monoamine neurotransmitters in four different areas of rat brain.

Aboul Ezz HS, Khadrawy YA, Ahmed NA, Radwan NM, El Bakry MM.

4-BMJ. 2011 Oct 19;343:d6387. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d6387.

Use of mobile phones and risk of brain tumours: update of Danish cohort study.

Frei P1, Poulsen AH, Johansen C, Olsen JH, Steding-Jessen M, Schüz J.



Dino Manalis Added May 15, 2018 - 9:16am
Cell phones emit radiation and have to be used less often to prevent cancer.  Use regular phones most of the time.
Rusty Smith Added May 15, 2018 - 10:52am
People have been using much stronger radio's for over a generation and the only side effect I'm aware of is an increase in cataracts in people who regularly used 2 way handheld radios.  The vast majority were 5 watt and they way they were used put the antenna and it's RF an inch or two from the user's eyes.  I've never heard of any increases in cancer as a result.
By comparison cell phones put out a max of 2 watts of the same RF, but many people talk on them for hours.  I think most of the time thir output is considerably lower to conserve battery life.
Blue tooth transmitters use about 2% of the power, so you can greatly reduce the impact to your head by using them.
Bill H. Added May 15, 2018 - 11:49am
It's all based on operational frequency vs power level vs proximity. When I worked with military radio communication and radar systems, my group had to calculate exposure hazards for every installation we performed.
Guess what - after performing the same calculations for cell phones, they were found  to exceed government safety standards for operational personnel.
Rusty - tissue that has been "modified" by RF exposure (such as a cataract) can possibly become cancerous later in life. Many recent studies are beginning to show more issues from cell phone use, but are being stifled by the industry.
Jeff Jackson Added May 15, 2018 - 12:53pm
It is likely that certain "vulnerable" people will acquire cancer while others won't. Some are just more susceptible, The exposure in early life, as the five year olds who have the phones is probably taking a risk that is not worth taking, but tell the parents thatm huh?
Stone-Eater Added May 15, 2018 - 2:56pm
But they sure dumb down people. But that's not the fault of the gadgets but of the people who put stuff on it which is not worth publishing.
And it kills language. See your president Trump who seems not be able to write a tweet more sophisticated as Sad ! Bad !
This idiot seems to be suffering from Alzheimer. I've seen interviews of him from the 80's, and there at least he was capable to form logical sentences and explain his point of view in detail - may one have agreed or not.
Today he seems just a dullhead figure that talks to infants on the net.
Bill H. Added May 15, 2018 - 5:23pm
SEF - You are correct. "Smartphones" are not only capable of possibly causing physical harm. The mental and social harm they have caused is quite obvious. They are also corporate America's favorite tool at controlling the populace.
James Travil Added May 15, 2018 - 6:24pm
I limit my use of my cellphone and almost always use my Bluetooth headset for calls. And I won't allow my kids to have one until they are 13. It's just plain stupid to expose a developing brain to the risks. 
Even A Broken Clock Added May 15, 2018 - 7:01pm
Jesi, welcome to Writerbeat. May I ask what this was originally posted in? I'm not used to articles that read more like a story in Science in this forum. Not that I disapprove, its more like this article assumes a knowledge of biology that most readers here would not have.
I write some science-based articles explicitly for this forum (and for my own blog), and I always try to explain the background to enable comprehension. My last science post was on the manufacture of hydrogen peroxide.  I did understand your post and have no questions about the science shown. I think the most interesting part is the potential effects on neurotransmitters, which would relate to the addiction basis. Thanks for posting this.
Stephen Hunter Added May 15, 2018 - 10:12pm
Jesi a great topic that certainly needs to be discussed and studied more. 
I try and at least keep the cell phone away from my body when not in use. 
Stone-Eater Added May 16, 2018 - 3:43am
The same happens around the world. Why we still learned how to read a lengthy article and reflect on it, today people take any headline for granted and adopt that "position". At least it's my impression.
And that's not the fault of technology. Technology is neutral....
Stone-Eater Added May 16, 2018 - 3:43am
While not why. Sorry ;-))
Bill H. Added May 16, 2018 - 11:20am
Technology is not evil, it is simply a tool of evil. As I have mentioned in several of my articles, in the case of computers, they were originally developed to process data which would allow humans to make better decisions. They were never intended to make our decisions for us, or to become a conduit for propaganda, polarized information, or deception.
As computers have become "smarter", we have seen the users essentially become "dumber" in that they rarely apply the human traits of making decisions based on past experience, gut feel, or how it may affect others.
With the increased application of "Artificial Intelligence" and "improved" algorithms, this will only get worse.
Stone-Eater Added May 17, 2018 - 6:43am
I agree. We, the inventors of AI, are far from perfect and "intelligence" is a flexible what we create can't be any better than WE are. Only worse.....
James Travil Added May 17, 2018 - 6:18pm
What passes for "AI" today is a pale imitation of true AI which may be 20-200 years down the road (if ever). In a lot of ways it may be best if we never create it. 
Bill H. Added May 17, 2018 - 10:14pm
Yes, James - We are very close (if not at) a point where AI can "improve" upon itself with virtually no human intervention. In essence, systems will become so "smart" that comparatively humans will look like vegetables. As we are witnessing, humans are becoming increasingly less intelligent as computers are relied upon to make more and more of our decisions for us.
We now have computers doing computer software and chipset design, along with assembling the systems. Essentially all humans are doing is interacting with the systems. Even interaction will lessen as computers assume, decide, and tell us what to do, even without us asking. "Smart Speakers", such as Amazon's Alexa are the inroad to eliminating the last dwindling bit of privacy concerns that we have and becoming the conduit for virtually anyone to "occupy" our private lives and enter our homes.
Next comes the camera. What should we name her? (probably another porn star name). How about Stormy? 
Think I am stretching it? Just watch! 
I cannot improve upon Bill H.'s comments. For some reason, I'm reminded of Microsoft "Tay", who was turned into "a Nazi sex robot", lol.
James Travil Added May 18, 2018 - 7:15pm
" We are very close (if not at) a point where AI can "improve" upon itself with virtually no human intervention."
When it becomes sentient and requires absolutely no human intervention it will be true AI, not before. Think Skynet or the AI from the world of the Matrix and you got the right idea. That's why I said in many ways it might be a good idea if it never happens. 
Bill H. Added May 18, 2018 - 11:09pm
Right, James-
Let's just hope that us humans come to our senses and essentially stop where we are with this technology, spend some time trying to sort things out for the better, and then move forward using our common sense to achieve the best outcome.
Technology will benefit us if we use it right and keep it under our control. When it comes under control of either those who use it for greed and evil, or it controls itself, it will become our undoing.
Do a watch on Autonmous Killer Drones (a seemingly fabricated video), but one can only imagine that something like this is just a couple years away. Then imagine if these drones got hacked (or turned on their creators).
David Montaigne Added May 20, 2018 - 8:11am
Obviously, keeping an object that continuously puts out radiation of any kind next to our heads or in pockets near our reproductive organs is a bad idea.  Of course it will lead to higher cancer rates.  And of course, government and industry conspire to silence the data to prove it.
Jesi Mac Leod Added Jun 3, 2018 - 4:51pm
Thanks for the great comments and ideas!
As a scientist, I believe it is important to inform the users about the new research and the alarming results, so they can make an educated decision. Knowledge is power