Cell phone radiation doesn't cause cellular stress, doesn't promote cancer

October 5, 2005
Cell phone radiation doesn't cause cellular stress, doesn't promote cancer

Weighing in on the debate about whether cell phones have adverse health effects, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the electromagnetic radiation produced by cell phones does not activate the stress response in mouse, hamster or human cells growing in cultures.

The stress response is a cellular protection mechanism set into motion by various adverse stimuli, including heat shock, heavy metals, and inflammation. High levels of the stress response in cells are thought to result in changes associated with malignancy.

"We performed highly sensitive, extremely well-controlled tests on living cells irradiated with energy like that from mobile phones, but at levels 5 to 10 times higher than those set for the devices by regulatory agencies," says Andrei Laszlo, Ph.D., associate professor of radiation oncology and a researcher at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. "We see no indication that factors involved in the stress response increase their activity as a result of such exposures."

Prior research into the effect of cell phones on the stress response has been fraught with contradictory results, which in part may be due to less-than-ideal experimental conditions. For example, in the past it has been difficult to prevent temperature changes caused by microwave exposure.

Because heating of tissues has been shown unlikely to be a component of the effect of cell phone radiation on biological systems, Laszlo and his group sought to reduce as far as possible any heating of the cells in culture during the study. Using sensitive equipment that continuously monitored and adjusted temperature, they were able to keep temperature variations to plus or minus 0.3 degrees centigrade.

The researchers tuned their room-sized irradiator to emit cell phone frequency microwaves for both FDMA (frequency domain multiple access—used for cell phone analog signals) and CDMA (code domain multiple access—used for digital signals) modulation at power outputs standard for mobile phones. The large size of the irradiator enabled them to expose a large number of living cells so that sufficient material could be collected for highly accurate measurements.

"We were able to combine very good physics with very good biology as a consequence of the expertise of our research team," Laszlo says.

To test whether the cell's stress response was activated by irradiation, the group looked for activation of a protein called heat shock factor (HSF). The activation of HSF is a necessary first step in the cascade of events that induce the stress response.

Under both short-term exposures (5-60 minutes) and long-term exposures (1-7 days), all tests on the cells in culture showed that HSF was not activated by microwave radiation of either type, indicating the stress response was not initiated.

"We've done extensive studies on the effect of cell phone radiation in our research group in the past as well," Laszlo says. "Dr. Joseph Roti Roti and his colleagues have examined the potential for DNA damage and cellular transformation, and the effect of microwave radiation on animals has been studied also. Now we've conducted this study of the molecular mechanisms of the stress response. In every case we've looked at, our group saw no biological effects of cell phone radiation that could cause cancer."

Source: Washington University School of Medicine

Explore further: Sensory illusion causes cells to self-destruct

Related Stories

Sensory illusion causes cells to self-destruct

November 19, 2015

Magic tricks work because they take advantage of the brain's sensory assumptions, tricking audiences into seeing phantoms or overlooking sleights of hand. Now a team of UC San Francisco researchers has discovered that even ...

New form of mRNA regulation characterized

November 23, 2015

RNA, once thought to be a mere middleman between DNA and protein, is now recognized as the stage at which a host of regulatory processes can act to allow for flexibility in gene expression and thus the functions of cells ...

Cell stress response and fat and obesity gene linked

October 29, 2015

In one fell swoop, Cornell researchers have discovered mechanisms that control the function of a fat and obesity gene while at the same time answering a long-standing question about how cells respond to stress.

How plant cell compartments 'chat' with each other

November 4, 2015

A team of researchers led by scientists from the University of Bonn has discovered a basis of communication in plant cells: The "MICU" protein controls the calcium ion concentration in the cellular power stations. Using these ...

Recommended for you

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

A blue, neptune-size exoplanet around a red dwarf star

November 25, 2015

A team of astronomers have used the LCOGT network to detect light scattered by tiny particles (called Rayleigh scattering), through the atmosphere of a Neptune-size transiting exoplanet. This suggests a blue sky on this world ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.