No Association Between Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure and Tumor Development


In a risk analysis, the FDA found that there is not sufficient evidence to support a causal relationship between radiofrequency exposure and tumorigenesis.

The FDA has completed an updated radiofrequency exposure risk analysis to assess the possibility of a causal relationship between radiofrequency radiation (RFR) exposure from devices like cell phones and the formation of tumors.

Based on relevant peer-reviewed in vivo studies published between January 1, 2008 and August 1, 2019 and epidemiological studies published between January 1, 2009 and May 8, 2018, the report published by the FDA indicated that there is insufficient evidence to support a causal association between RFR exposure and tumorigenesis. 

“The available epidemiological and cancer incidence data continues to support the agency’s determination that there are no quantifiable adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current cell phone exposure limits,” the authors of the report wrote.

Though some of the studies analyzed in the report have previously suggested a potential link between heavy cell phone use and the development of some tumors, the FDA indicated that there is no “clear and consistent pattern” that has surfaced from these studies and these studies were also prone to flaws and inaccuracies. 

During the period covered by the report, there were approximately 125 relevant articles that studied the effects of RFR on animals. However, researchers suggested that none have sufficiently established that localized exposure to RFR at levels that would be experienced by cell phone users can lead to adverse effects.

“It is difficult to measure and model with adequate accuracy and precision the specific dose of RFR that each animal absorbs in each study,” the authors wrote. “Additionally, it is difficult to separate the effects of direct RFR exposure, if there are any that occurred, from the well-documented indirect effects of temperature rise (the only established biological effect of RFR on tissue) and the stress encountered by experimental animals, which confounds reported outcomes.” 

With the difficulties present in in vivo studies, it was concluded that the effects of RFR exposure would be better described in humans using strong epidemiological studies. Within the last decade, there have been approximately 70 relevant epidemiological studies that the authors could use and analyze for this report. However, outside of a laboratory setting, the researchers indicated that there are no direct measurements of radiofrequency exposure, and studies tend to rely on the participants to track and self-report.

“Therefore, the actual RFR exposure remains an estimate at best,” the authors wrote. “Based on the available data, there is no clear evidence as to whether frequency, duration, or intensity of exposure is the most important factor in assessing exposure and, as discussed above, there is no clear way to measure or estimate each of these factors.”

However, though the currently available studies provided insufficient evidence, the researchers indicated that as further research is conducted, they will continue to assess the available information. 

“The data suggest the need for shifting the focus from the general population with undetectable overall risk to a very small subset of people who might be inherently predisposed to the risk for tumorigenesis and who therefore might be more susceptible to putative risk modification by the intense [radio-frequency electromagnetic field; RF-EMF] exposure,” the authors wrote. 


U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Review of Published Literature between 2008 and 2018 of Relevance to Radiofrequency Radiation and Cancer. FDA website. Published February 2020. Accessed February 12, 2020.

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