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IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risk to Humans. Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields. Lyon (FR): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, No. 102.)

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Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields.

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6. Evaluation

6.1. Cancer in Humans

There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of radiofrequency radiation. Positive associations have been observed between exposure to radiofrequency radiation from wireless phones and glioma, and acoustic neuroma.

6.2. Cancer in Experimental Animals

There is limited evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of radiofrequency radiation.

6.3. Overall Evaluation

Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).

6.4. Rationale of the evaluation of the epidemiological evidence

The human epidemiological evidence was mixed. Several small early case–control studies were considered to be largely uninformative. A large cohort study showed no increase in risk of relevant tumours, but it lacked information on level of mobile-phone use and there were several potential sources of misclassification of exposure. The bulk of evidence came from reports of the INTERPHONE study, a very large international, multicentre case–control study and a separate large case–control study from Sweden on gliomas and meningiomas of the brain and acoustic neuromas. While affected by selection bias and information bias to varying degrees, these studies showed an association between glioma and acoustic neuroma and mobile-phone use; specifically in people with highest cumulative use of mobile phones, in people who had used mobile phones on the same side of the head as that on which their tumour developed, and in people whose tumour was in the temporal lobe of the brain (the area of the brain that is most exposed to RF radiation when a wireless phone is used at the ear). The Swedish study found similar results for cordless phones. The comparative weakness of the associations in the INTERPHONE study and inconsistencies between its results and those of the Swedish study led to the evaluation of limited evidence for glioma and acoustic neuroma, as decided by the majority of the members of the Working Group. A small, recently published Japanese case–control study, which also observed an association of acoustic neuroma with mobile-phone use, contributed to the evaluation of limited evidence for acoustic neuroma.

There was, however, a minority opinion that current evidence in humans was inadequate, therefore permitting no conclusion about a causal association. This minority saw the inconsistency between the two case–control studies and a lack of exposure–response relationship in the INTERPHONE study. The minority also pointed to the fact that no increase in rates of glioma or acoustic neuroma was seen in a nationwide Danish cohort study, and that up to now, reported time trends in incidence rates of glioma have not shown a trend parallel to time trends in mobile-phone use.

© International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2013. For more information contact publications@iarc.fr.
Bookshelf ID: NBK304629

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