Green circle with question mark inside Most likely or definitely true

Red circle with X insideFalse/misinformation

Gray circle with question mark insideWe’re not sure yet

Change or refine your search

Cell phone use causes cancer

What you may have heard

Keeping your phone close to your body or head can increase your risk of cancer.

What science tells us

Phones emit RF (Radiofrequency) waves, which are a form of non-ionizing radiation. This means that they do not have enough energy to directly damage DNA inside cells and cause cancer (ACS, NCI). The closer the phone is held to the body, the greater the expected exposure to RF waves. Many other factors affect the amount of energy a person is exposed to, such as:

  • Amount of time a person is on the phone and the nearness of the cell phone to the user’s body (e.g., head).
  • Distance and path to the nearest cell tower: the farther the distance from the nearest cell tower, the more energy is required to maintain the signal
  • Amount of cell traffic in the area at a time: the more traffic, the more energy is required to maintain the signal
  • Model of phone being used

Epidemiological Evidence

Many studies have evaluated whether there is a link between cell phone usage and cancer, however, the results are not conclusive (NCI). Most international organizations deem cell phone usage to be at most only a potential risk to cancer and at the least, insufficient evidence to comment.

Laboratory Evidence

Currently, there is no laboratory evidence linking cell phone use to increase risk in cancer.

IARC Carcinogen Classification: Group 3 (Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans:  Radio-frequency electromagnetic fields).

How to reduce your risk

It is not clear whether decreasing the amount of time spent on the cell phone (ACS), using the speaker mode or a hands-free device, or texting instead of talking on the phone would decrease cancer risk. Although studies are inconclusive, decreasing your exposure to RF waves will lessen the chances that you are increasing your cancer risk.

Bottom line

RF waves used in cell phones do not have enough energy to damage DNA, so this mechanism is not likely to cause cancer. However, there is insufficient evidence to conclude a link between cancer risk and cell phone use.

Berkeley Public Health: Cell phone radiation
American Cancer Society (ACS): Cell phones
National Cancer Institute (NCI): Cell Phones and cancer


Published: July 12, 2021
Verified/updated: August 22, 2022