Radio-frequency radiation (RFR) from cell phones might be linked to heart and brain cancer in rats, according to partial findings from the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP). There’s an estimated 327.5 million cell phone subscriber in the United States. The agency said it was important to publish findings, although they are not conclusive.
The interest of analyzing the impact RFR came first by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which ordered the study. It is among the “most complex and largest” investigations ever conducted by the NTP. Rats were exposed to radiations for nine hours per day, during two years.
The institution found that male rats presented “low incidences” of tumors in the brain and heart. However, Female creatures were not affected by cancer and radiations. Findings have been discussed while research continues. Complete results are expected to be published by late 2017.
Here’s what science has to say about cell phones and cancer
Every cell phone emits radio frequency energy, which is also known as radio waves. “This is a form of non-ionizing radiation”, said the National Cancer Institute. Tissues in the human body may absorb this energy when being in contact with antennas.
A theory suggests that exposure to ionizing radiation may increase the risk of developing cancer, said the NHI. Some studies have also evaluated the effects of x-rays, radars and microwave ovens. However, none of them have provided conclusive results.
Previous research also suggests that radiofrequency energy may interfere with glucose metabolism although results are “inconsistent”, said the National Cancer Institutes. John Bucher, associate director at the NTP said it was important “to get that word out”.
According to Bucher, researchers feel that frequency of tumors in rats may be associated with the exposures. However, they are not clear whether humans face the same risks when using cell phones or headset devices.
Science and cell phones: a controversial relationship since-since the 1990s
Dr.Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society (ACS), said that the new findings are unexpected since researchers would not expect non-ionizing radiation to cause such tumors. An estimated 17,000 Americans will die as a consequence of brain tumors within 2016, said the American Brain Tumor Association.
“This is a striking example of why a serious study is so important in evaluating cancer risk. It’s interesting to note that early studies on the link between lung cancer and smoking had similar resistance since theoretical arguments at the time suggested that there could not be a link,” said Brawley as reported by NBC News.
The usage of cell phones has been massively increasing since the 1990s. Studies propose that there are more of these devices than people in the world. Research firms also calculate that there would be nearly 5 billion cellphone subscriptions in the planet by the end of 2017.
According to data provided by the ACS, the incidence of brain tumors has not risen since the adoption of cellphones started. “It is very reassuring in fact that there has been no dramatic increase,” added Butcher, according to NBC News.
New considerations: rats affected by radiofrequency radiation are under the spotlight of researchers
The NTP found that lab rats that were in contact with RFR showed the incidence of “malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas of the heart”. Findings may be congruent with similar investigations by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, wrote researchers in a paper.
Newborn rats were the least affected by RFR. However, pups whose mothers were exposed to radiation showed lighter weights. By contrast, female rats showed no biological changes in the brain or heart, wrote researchers.
The reported included comments from physicians, who analyzed results of the study. Dr. Michael Lauer of the NIH said he has not agreed with researchers, given that “more information” about mice and randomization process is needed.
“I suspect that this experiment is substantially underpowered and that the few positive results found reflect false positive findings.2 The higher survival with RFR, along with the prior epidemiological literature, leaves me even more skeptical of the authors’ claims,” said Lauer.
Diana Copeland Haines of the NCI said that rats were exposed to radiation levels that are not considered safe for humans. However, she agreed with findings showing increases in the incidence of tumors among male rats.
Why are rat cancer models used in science?
For more than 150 years, researchers have used rat models to conduct health research. Rat cancer models have provided “remarkable” information to better understand “cancer triggers, mechanisms, and therapeutics,” said the NCI.
Within the last decade, investigators have added genetic mapping, gene expression, and computational analysis, to rat cancer models. For instance, genes associated with breast cancer in the creatures, are similar to those in humans.
“The laboratory mouse emerged as the leading mammal for experimental genetics,” said the NCI.
Source: U.S. National Toxicology Program