Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 323–332

Radio frequency radiation (RFR): the nature of exposure and carcinogenic potential

  • Peter A. Valberg


Epidemiologic evidence on the relation between radio-frequency radiation (RFR) and cancer is reviewed. Radio-wave communications are used extensively in modern society; thus, we are all subject to RFR created by radio, television, wireless telephony, emergency communications, radar, etc. Interest in the health effects of RFR has been motivated by the rapid growth in wireless communications and by media reports expressing concern that specific diseases may be caused by RFR exposure, e.g., from cellular telephone handsets. Due to the ubiquitous presence of RFR, the public health implication of any connection between RFR and cancer risk is potentially significant. (It is important to keep RFR distinct from power-line electromagnetic fields.) Comparison of potential risks from RFR exposure with other occupational and environmental health risks requires evaluating the level of support from available epidemiology, from studies with laboratory animals, and from mechanistic or biophysical information about the interaction of RFR with living tissues. A large number of studies have been done with laboratory animals and with in vitro systems; a more limited set of epidemiologic studies is available. Effects from RFR exposure that lead to temperature increases have been consistently reported, but 'non-thermal' effects have not been substantiated. Also, there are no mechanistic theories that support 'non-thermal' interactions with biology. Evidence to support a causal relationship between exposure to RFR and human cancers is scant. Our present state of knowledge about exposure, mechanisms, epidemiology, and animal studies does not identify significant cancer risks.

Cancer cellular telephones electromagnetic fields nonionizing radiation radio frequency radiation 


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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter A. Valberg
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Gradient CorporationCambridge
  2. 2.Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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