Will i get cancer if i use my phone for too long ? You probably asked yourself this question at least once in your life, gave it a quick thought and forgot about it 5 seconds later. Well, in this period of confinement where we are all using our electronic devices a bit more than usual, let me answer this question for you.
Let’s talk about waves, electronic waves
All of our electronic devices work thanks to electricity but you knew that already. The thing is, electricity is not static, it moves through the devices. This movement generates electric and magnetic fields which creates waves. This phenomenon is called electromagnetic radiation.
The first thing people think about when hearing radiation is Chernobyl, but the literal definition of radiation is « letting out ». Just like uranium radiates gamma rays, electronic devices radiate different kinds of waves that are more or less harmful depending on their frequency, the higher the frequency , the faster the waves and the more harmful they are. Harmful waves, such as gamma rays can kick atoms out of their place and cause permanent damage to our cells and DNA, causing cancer and other mortal diseases.
The most harmful ones are :
- Gamma rays : they are produced by the most extreme phenomenons in the unviverse, such as the explosion of a star or from black holes. We are constantly exposed to them, but in such infinitesimal rates that most of the time, they can be ignored. They can also be man-made in nuclear power plants.
- X-rays : these rays can only be man-made, they are known for easily penetrating soft material such as skin and are used in medical imaging among other things. It is not recomanded to stay exposed too long to them, you might die.
- Ultraviolet (UV) : Situated at the far right of the visible spectrum, these rays can be seen, unlike the other two, thanks to specialised devices. 5% of the electromagnetic energy emanated from the sun are UV, they can easily penetrate the ozone layer and are the cause of tanning. They are necessary for us since they provide us in vitamin D, of course exposing yourself for too long to these rays can cause mutations and cancer in extreme cases.
These 3 rays are the most dangerous ones since the waves they generate have such high frequency. Below UV, rays stop having any major impact on the human body.
Radio waves :
Radio waves are the ones we’re interested in, they’re radiated by every electric device we know of. These waves aren’t able to influence the molecules in our body. The best they can do is contract some of our muscles in certain circumstances. Long story short, using your electronic devices won’t provoke the appearance of cancer.
So why is there this belief that electronic devices can cause cancer :
This fear of getting cancer from our phones started when a study made in 1979 linked leukemia to living near a power line, time passed but no proof was found to confirm this study. Of course, it didn’t stop there, this study started a chain reaction and caused the appearance of multiple other studies trying to link electronic devices to diseases.
Media didn’t help either, whenever any kind of tiny hint linking the two was found, they didn’t waste any second to spread the news , removing all the crucial details and creating the buzz.
Finally, WHO, the World Health Organization, classified radio waves as possibly carcinogenic, reinforcing this belief. The problem is that WHO saying they are carcinogenic doesn’t mean that it is confirmed, it only means that there are hints that the two might be linked and that further research will have to be made to prove it.
But my head hurts every time i use my phone :
This is what’s known as the neucebo effect, the placebo effect makes us believe something makes us feel better, the neucebo effect is the contrary. We spend a lot of time on our electronic devices, be it phones, computers, tv, so whenever we get a fever or headache while using them, it’s not weird to think that they are the cause.
What’s not a neucebo though is the strain we feel in our eyes whenever we spend too much time in front of a screen. What causes this strain is the blue light which is situated just behind the UV, which means that it contains a good amount of energy. Blue light is something that we look at all the time and is the reason why the sky is blue, however, there are two types of blue light, the natural one which is low energy, and the one coming out of our screen which is high energy. Unlike UV, our eyes don’t block blue light, so the high energy blue light can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina. That is why using yellow teinted lenses helps releave the strain.