Radiation from cell phones may cause cancer, the World Health Organization said for the first time Tuesday.
Previously, the group had maintained that there are no adverse health effects from the use of cell phones. But in a new report, its International Agency for Research on Cancer said that the radiation is “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, the panel’s third-most severe ranking.
The experts stressed that the potential link between cell phone use and cancer remains far from certain and significantly more research is needed. Nonetheless, their findings raise serious questions for the estimated 5 billion people who use cell phones globally.
“The conclusion means there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk,” said Jonathan Samet, the panel’s chair, in the published report.
The panel included 31 scientists from a total of 14 countries. It based its conclusion on an exhaustive review of available scientific literature during an eight-day meeting in France that wrapped up Tuesday.
According to the Washington Post, the “possibly carcinogenic” rating was based largely on two epidemiologic studies that found an association between using a cell phone and a malignant form of brain cancer known as glioma.
Other substances that that have received the “possibly carcinogenic” tag include talcum body powder and low-frequency magnetic fields, which have been possibly linked to ovarian cancer and childhood leukemia, respectively.
According to CNET, Tuesday’s finding place cell phones in the same category as lead, engine exhaust, and chloroform.