Did Cell Phones Give Kennedy Cancer?

Dear Reader,

Some people think Senator Kennedy’s cell phone caused it.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s been diagnosed with a malignant “glioma,” a kind of brain cancer specifically considered a risk for cell phone users.

Should you be worried?

The truth is cell phones have not been around long enough to give us the kind of long-term studies we really need to know for sure.

And the research is conflicting. Some studies show no increased risk. So I’m not ready to tell my readers and patients that cell phones definitely cause cancer. The FDA says, “The available scientific evidence does not show that any health problems are associated with using wireless phones.” But they then go on to add, “There is no proof, however, that wireless phones are absolutely safe.”

Some of the most up-to-date research suggests that there is some cause for concern. Here’s what I know:

• Researchers in Israel found last year that people who used cell phones heavily experienced a 58 percent increase in “parotid tumors”—a cancer of the saliva gland near the ear.1

• Another study last year out of Sweden concluded that cell phone users are ten times more likely to develop benign cancers of the ear and brain.2

• Several animal studies have found that the kind of radiation cell phones use can damage DNA in brain cells. Damaged DNA is one of the things that can turn healthy cells into cancer cells.3,4

Cell phones use microwaves called “radio frequency radiation,” or RF, to transmit signals. Their antennae emit most of the RF, and since you’re holding the phone right next to your ear most of the time, a lot of it penetrates the brain—as much as 60 percent according to some studies.5

Depending on the size of your head and the amount of radiation coming from the specific type of phone you use, you may be literally “cooking” your brain: RF energy can potentially cause the temperature of your brain tissue to rise slightly.6

So I recommend you take steps to protect yourself now instead of waiting for proof positive. Here are a few guidelines to protect yourself from any risk from cell phone RF:

• Keep cell phone calls short.

• Go with a “hands-free” headset or a speakerphone—this keeps the cell phone from direct contact with your head.

• Don’t carry your cell phone in your chest- or hip pocket. Even when in “standby” mode, cell phones continue to emit radiation, exposing whichever part of your body is closest.

• When using a hands-free headset, let the wire extend fully between your head and the phone. This distributes RF in small amounts along the length of your body rather than concentrating it in any one location.

• Look for a phone with “voice-activated” features. These enable you to place calls and perform other commands without having to hold the phone close to your head.

• Use a standard “landline” whenever possible.

• Find out the level of RF emissions for your cell phone. If it’s high, replace it. Cell phones come with emissions ratings known as “SARs” or specific absorption rates. These range from 0.5 to 1.6 W/kg (watts of power absorbed per kilogram of body tissue). Avoid any cell phone that falls within range of that upper limit. My Wellness Research team’s tracked down the SAR ratings for some commonly used cell phones:

Make/Model & SAR Rating

Alcatel OT-256 0.59

Apple iPhone 0.974

Blackberry 8100 Pearl 1.52

Kyocera KX1 (SoHo) .99

LG Prada 1.29

Nokia 2300 1.27

Nokia 2650 .54

Palm Treo 600 1.43

Palm Treo 650 CDMA 1.50

Samsung PM-A840 1.29

Samsung SPH-A900 .92

Sanyo M1 1.22

Sanyo SCP-5400 1.16

Sharp GX20 .7

Sony Ericsson A1228C 1.34

Sony Ericsson K600i .5

Sprint PM 8912 1.27

T-Mobile Dash 1.34

Finally, the FDA provides SAR ratings for most kinds of cell phones and other wireless devices on line. You’ll need to locate your cell phone’s FCC ID number, which is usually located somewhere on the case of the phone or in the battery compartment.

Click HERE for more information.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD


1 Sadetzki et al. “Cellular Phone Use and Risk of Benign and Malignant Parotid Gland Tumors—A Nationwide Case-Control Study.” Journal of Epidemiology. 2007. doi:10.1093/aje/kwm325.

2 Hardell et al. “Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for 10 years.” 2007. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 64:626-632

3 Lai et al. “Acute low-intensity microwave exposure increases DNA single-strand breaks in rat brain cells.” Bioelectromagnetics. 1995. 16:207-210.

5 Cardis et al. “Distribution of RF energy emitted by mobile phones in anatomical structures of the brain.” Physics in Medicine and Biology. 2008. 1;53(11):2771-2783.

6 Foster et al. “Thermal mechanisms of interaction of radiofrequency energy with biological systems with relevance to exposure guidelines.” 2007. Health Physics. 92:609-620.