Increased Incidence of Cancer near a Cell-Phone Transmitter
DE LA INCIDENCIA DE CÁNCER EN LAS CERCANÍAS DE UNA ESTACIÓN BASE DE
traducción del Resumen: Pedro Belmonte ( Ecologistas en Acción)
DANNY WOLF MD2
Unidad Dermatológica del Centro Médico Kaplan , Rechovot, y Facultad de
Medicina Sackler, Universidad de Tel-Aviv , Tel-Aviv, ISRAEL.
Clínica Pediátrica de Pacientes Externos, Hasharon Region, Kupat Holim,
International Journal of Cancer Prevention
VOLUME 1, NUMBER 2, APRIL 2004
of Cancer near a Cell-Phone Transmitter Station
una significativa preocupación, que ha aumentado, sobre los posibles
efectos en la salud derivados de la exposición a campos electromagnéticos
de radiofrecuencias (RF); especialmente después de la rápida introducción
de los sistemas de telecomunicaciones móviles. Los padres y madres están
especialmente preocupados con la posibilidad de que sus hijos pueda
desarrollar cáncer por la exposición a las emisiones de radiofrecuencias
de las antenas estaciones base de telefonía móvil instaladas cerca de las
escuelas. Los escasos estudios epidemiológicos que han informado sobre la
incidencia del cáncer en relación con la radiación de radiofrecuencia han
presentado resultados negativos o inconsistentes generalmente, y así han
hecho énfasis en la necesidad de más estudios que investigaran cohortes
con alta exposición a radiofrecuencias (RF) para ver cambios en la
incidencia del cáncer.
es un estudio epidemiológico par determinar si la incidencia de casos de
cáncer entre individuos expuestos a las transmisiones de las estaciones
base de telefonía móvil difieren de las que se esperan en Israel, en
Netanya, o las comparadas con la gente que viven en zonas próximas. Los
participantes son personas (n = 622) viviendo en el área cercana de una
estación base de telefonía móvil durante 3-7 años que, además, eran
pacientes de una centro de salud (de DW). Una segunda cohorte con los que
se comparó eran individuos que reciben servicios clínicos y tenían
características similares desde el punto de vista ambiental, de lugar de
área de exposición (área A) se diagnosticaron 8 casos de diferentes tipos
de cáncer en un período en solo un año. Este índice de cánceres fue
comparado con el índice de 31 casos por 10.000 al año en la población
general y el índice de 2/1222 registrado en la clínica cercana (área B).
Los índices relativos de cánceres en mujeres fueron 10´5 par el área A,
0’6 para el área B y 1 par toda la ciudad de Netanya. La incidencia de
cáncer en mujeres en el área A fue así significativamente mayor (p<0.0001)
en comparación con el área B y con la de toda la ciudad. Una comparación
del riego relativo reveló que había 4’15 veces más casos en el área A que
en toda la población.
estudio indica una asociación entre el incremento e la incidencia del
cáncer y vivir en las proximidades de una estación base de telefonía móvil
INCREASED INCIDENCE OF CANCER NEAR A CELL-PHONE TRANSMITTER STATION.
RONNI WOLF MD1
DANNY WOLF MD2
The Dermatology Unit, Kaplan Medical Center, Rechovot, and the Sackler
Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, ISRAEL.
The Pediatric Outpatient Clinic, Hasharon Region, Kupat Holim,
Running title: Cancer near a cell-phone transmitter station.
Word count: Words = 1649, Characters = 8414.
Address for correspondence: Ronni Wolf, MD, Dermatology Unit, Kaplan
Medical Center, Rechovot 76100, ISRAEL.
Fax 972-9-9560978. E-mail:
International Journal of Cancer Prevention
VOLUME 1, NUMBER 2, APRIL 2004
Increased Incidence of Cancer near a Cell-Phone Transmitter Station
Significant concern has been raised about possible health effects from
exposure to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields, especially after
the rapid introduction of mobile telecommunications systems. Parents are
especially concerned with the possibility that children might develop
cancer after exposure to the RF emissions from mobile telephone base
stations erected in or near schools. The few epidemiologic studies that
did report on cancer incidence in relation to RF radiation have generally
presented negative or inconsistent results, and thus emphasize the need
for more studies that should investigate cohorts with high RF exposure for
changes in cancer incidence. The aim of this study is to
investigate whether there is an increased cancer incidence in populations,
living in a small area, and exposed to RF radiation from a cell-phone
This is an epidemiologic assessment, to determine whether the incidence of
cancer cases among individuals exposed to a cell-phone transmitter station
is different from that expected in Israel, in Netanya, or as compared to
people who lived in a nearby area. Participants are people (n=622) living
in the area near a cell-phone transmitter station for 3-7 years who were
patients of one health clinic (of DW). The exposure began 1 year before
the start of the study when the station first came into service. A second
cohort of individuals (n=1222) who get their medical services in a clinic
located nearby with very closely matched, environment, workplace and
occupational characteristics was used for comparison.
In the area of exposure (area A) eight cases of different kinds of cancer
were diagnosed in a period of only one year. This rate of cancers was
compared both with the rate of 31 cases per 10,000 per year in the general
population and the 2/1222 rate recorded in the nearby clinic (area B).
Relative cancer rates for females were 10.5 for area A, 0.6 for
area B and 1 for the whole town of Netanya. Cancer incidence of women in
area A was thus significantly higher (p<0.0001) compared with that of area
B and the whole city. A comparison of the relative risk revealed that
there were 4.15 times more cases in area A than in the entire population.
The study indicates an association between increased incidence of cancer
and living in proximity to a cell-phone transmitter station.
Radiofrequency radiation; Cell-phone transmitter station (cell-phone
antenna); Cancer incidence study; Netanya.
Much concern has been expressed about possible health effects from
exposure to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields, particularly
following publication of scientific reports suggesting that residence near
high voltage power lines may be associated with an increased risk of
developing childhood leukemia. While interest tended to focus on microwave
ovens and radar equipment in the past, it is now mobile telecommunication
that attracts the most attention. The rapid introduction of mobile
telecommunications systems, the exponential increase in the use of such
phones, and the many base stations needed for serving them have engendered
renewed concerns about exposure to RF radiation.
The biological effects of low level electromagnetic fields and a possible
potential relation to cancer causation are controversial. There have been
several epidemiological studies of the possible adverse health effects
associated with environmental exposure to extremely low frequency (0-300
Hz) non-ionizing radiation, such as that emitted by power cables and
electric substations, linking such exposure to leukemia, brain cancer,
male breast cancer and skin and eye melanoma (1-11).
Far less attention has been paid to health hazards from environmental
exposure to radiation in the RF range (100 kHz to 300 GHz), including the
radiation emitted from cell-phone equipment, in the frequencies of 850
MHz, at field strengths much below those required to produce thermal
effects. The few epidemiologic studies that did report on cancer incidence
in relation to RF radiation (mainly from occupational exposure including
microwave and radar and from living in proximity to TV towers) have
generally presented negative or inconsistent results, or were subject to
possible confounding from other exposures (12-20).
Laboratory studies in this area have also been confusing and conflicting.
While some animal studies suggested that RF fields accelerate the
development of cancers, other studies found no carcinogenic effect (21).
Obviously, there is an urgent need for extensive, well-conducted
epidemiological and laboratory studies
An opportunity for studying the effect of RF radiation presented itself in
South Netanya, where a cell-phone transmitter station was located in the
middle of a small area. We took advantage of the fact, that most of the
population in the investigated area belong to one outpatient clinic (of DW),
and undertook an epidemiologic assessment, in which we compared the cancer
incidence of this area to those of a nearby clinic, to the national
incidence rates of the whole country and to the incidence rates in the
whole town of Netanya.
Material and methods
The cell-phone transmitter unit is located at the south of the city of
Netanya in an area called Irus (area A). It first came into service in
7/96. The people in this area live in half a circle with a 350 meter
radius centered on the transmitter.
The antenna is 10 meters high. The antenna bears total maximum
transmission power at frequencies of 850 MHz of 1500 watt when working at
Both measured and predicted power density (for the frequencies of
850 MHz) in the whole exposed area were far below 0.53
thus the power density is far below the current guidelines which are based
on the thermal effects of RF exposure. Exact measured power
density in each house are described in table 1.
The current Israeli standard uses 50 packets/sec with
Time-Division-Multiple-Access (TDMA) quadrature modulation. The antenna
produces 50 packets/sec, using a 3:1 multiplexed
Time-Division-Multiple-Access (TDMA) modulation with a 33% duty cycle.
We conducted a cancer incidence study to investigate the incidence
of cancer cases of individuals exposed to a cell-phone transmitter
station, in comparison to those of a nearby clinic, to the national
incidence rates of the whole country and to the incidence rates in the
whole town of
The cohort included 622 people living in the Irus area (area A) for at
least 3-7 years and were patients of one health clinic (of DW). The
exposure began in 7/96 which was 1 year before the start of our study.
Statistical analysis was based on the comparison of observed and expected
numbers of cancer cases.
In order to compare incidence rates, 95% confidence intervals were
The observed number of cancer cases is the number of all the cancer cases
in the exposed cohort in the period between 7/97 - 6/98.
In order to estimate relative risk, rate ratios were computed using the
rate of 3 different cohorts as the base (the expected values):
The rate in a nearby clinic (which serves a population of 1222 people, all
of them living in area B) during the same period of time, i.e. 7/97 -
6/98. In order to compare area A and area B populations we used:
test to compare origin and sex division
t- test to compare age means
The national incidence rates of the whole country.
The incidence rates in the whole town of Netanya where the 2 clinics (of
area A and B) are located. The data of 2 and 3 were given to us by the
cancer registry and are updated to the years 91-94.
We also examined the history of the exposed cohort (of the A area) for
malignancies in the 5 years before the exposure began and found only 2
cases in comparison to 8 cases detected one year after the transmitter
station came into service.
Of the 622 people of area A, eight cases of different kinds of cancer were
diagnosed in a period of only one year (from July 1997 to June 1998).
Details on these cases are presented in Table 1. Briefly, we found 3 cases
of breast carcinoma, and one case of ovary carcinoma, lung carcinoma,
Hodgkin’s disease, osteoid osteoma, and hypernephroma.
This rate of cancers in the population of area A was compared both with
the rate of 31 cases per 10,000 per year in the general population and the
2/1222 rate recorded in a nearby clinic. To each one of the rates, a 95
percent confidence interval was calculated (Table 2): the rates in area A
were significantly higher than both those in area B, and the population as
A comparison of the relative risk revealed that there were 4.15 times more
cases in area A than in the entire population.
The population characteristics of areas A and B were very similar (Table
test for comparing gender and origin frequencies showed no significant
differences in these parameters between the two areas. Age means, as
compared by t-test and age distribution stratum also showed no significant
difference between the two groups.
Table 2a lists the rates of cancer incidence of areas A and B compared to
data of the whole town of
The comparison clearly indicated that the cancer incidence of women in
area A is significantly higher (p<0.0001) compared with that of the whole
Our study indicates an association between an increased incidence of
cancer and living in proximity to a cell-phone transmitter station.
Studies of this type are prone to biases. Possible methodological
artefacts to explain our alarming results were considered:
Differences in socioeconomic class and employment status, and demographic
heterogeneity due to differences in age, sex and ethnicity were excluded.
The two areas that were compared have very closely matched environment,
workplace and occupational characteristics.
Confounding variables affecting individuals could not be absolutely
adjusted for, however, there was no ionizing radiation that could affect
the whole community except the previously mentioned mobile antenna
station. There is no traffic density in this area, neither is there any
industry or any other air pollution. The population of area A (on which
adequate data could be gathered) did not suffer from uncommon genetic
conditions, nor did they receive carcinogenic medications.
Differences in diagnosis and registration of cancer cases. Although we
cannot altogether exclude the possibility that higher awareness of the
physician responsible for area A led to an artificial increase in cancer
cases in this area, this possibility seems to us very unlikely, since both
are qualified family physicians.
Several findings are of particular interest:
The measured level of RF radiation (power density) in the area was
low; far below the current guidelines based on the thermal effects of RF
exposure. We suggest, therefore, that the current guidelines be
The enormous short latency period; less than 2 years, indicates
that if there is a real causal association between RF radiation emitted
from the cell-phone base station and the cancer cases (which we strongly
believe there is), then the RF radiation should have a very strong
promoting effect on cancer at very low radiation!
Although the possibility remains that this clustering of cancer
cases in one year was a chance event, the unusual sex pattern of these
cases, the 6 different cancer kinds, and the fact that only one patient
smoked make this possibility very improbable and remote. It should be
noted that 7 out of 8 cancer cases were women, like in the work of
who found 6 out of 7 leukemia cases in proximity to radio towers to occur
in girls. Such unusual appearances of cancer cases due to one accused
factor on two completely different occasions is alarming.
We are aware of at least 2 areas in which a drastic increase in the
incidence of cancer cases occurred near a cell-phone antenna, however, the
setup was not suitable for a well design study of those cases. In one of
them (which also got publication in the daily newspapers) there were 6 out
of 7 cancer cases in women working in a store in close proximity to a
In conclusion, the results of this study showed that there was a
significantly greater incidence of cancers of all kinds within the
vicinity of a cell-phone transmitter station. It would be certainly too
premature to draw any conclusions from our results before they are
confirmed and repeated by other studies from other areas, particularly in
view of the fact that a great majority of papers on this subject showed
that RF fields and mobile telephone frequencies were not genotoxic, did
not induce genetic effects in vitro and in vivo, and were not found to be
teratogenic or to induce cancers
The results of this paper should, however, serve as an alarm and emphasize
the need for further investigations.
At one year following the close of the study, 8 new cases of cancer
were diagnosed in area A and two cases in area B. Among the cases
diagnosed in area A was one of osteoid osteoma, the second case from the
beginning of the study.
1. Cartwright R (1989) Low frequency
alternating electromagnetic fields and leukaemia: the saga so far. Br J
2. Demers PA et al (1991) Occupational exposure
to electromagnetic fields and breast cancer in men. Am J Epidemiol.
3. Dolk H et al (1997) Cancer incidence near
radio and television transmitters in Great Britain. Am J Epidemiol
4. Elliott P et al (1992) The Small Area Health
Statistics Unit: a national facility for investigating health around point
sources of environmental pollution in the United Kingdom. J
Epidemiol.Community Health 46:345-349.
5. Feychting M and Ahlbom A (1993) Magnetic
fields and cancer in children residing near Swedish high-voltage power
lines. Am J Epidemiol 138:467-481.
6. Goldsmith J (1995) Epidemiologic evidence of
radio-frequency (microwave) effects on health in military broadcasting and
occupational studies. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 1:47-57.
7. Guenel P et al (1993) Incidence of cancer in
persons with occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields in Denmark.
Br.J Ind.Med 50:758-764.
8. Hocking B et al (1996) Cancer incidence and
mortlity and proximity to TV towers. Med J Aust 165:601-615.
9. Kraut A et al (1991) Epidemiologic
investigation of a cancer cluster in professional football players.
10. Lester J and Moore D (1982) Cancer
mortality and Air Force bases. J Bioelectricity 1:77-82.
11. Maskarinec G et al (1994) Investigation of
increased incidence in childhood leukaemia near radio towers in Hawaii:
preliminary observations. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol 13:33-37.
12. McGregor A (1998) WHO launches mobile-phone
hazards study. Lancet 351:276.
13. Milham S Jr (1988) Increased mortality in
amateur radio operators due to lymphatic and hematopoietic malignancies.
Am J Epidemiol. 127:50-54.
14. Pollack H (1979) Epidemiologic data on
American personnel in the Moscow embassy. Bull N.Y.Acad.Med
15. Polsen P and Merritt J (1985) Cancer
mortality and Air Force bases: a re-evaluation. J Bioelectricity
16. Repacholi M (1997) Radiofrequency field
exposure and cancer: what do the laboratory studies suggest. Environ
Health Perspect 105 (Suppl 6):1565-1568.
17. Repacholi M (1998) Low-level exposure to
radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: health effects and research needs.
18. Robinette C, Silvermann C, and Jablon S
(1980) Effects upon health of occupational exposure to microwave radiation
(radar). Am J Epidemiol 112:39-53.
19. Savitz DA et al (1988) Case-control study
of childhood cancer and exposure to 60-Hz magnetic fields. Am J
20. Savitz D, Ahlbom A (1994) Epidemiologic
evidence of cancer in relation to residential and occupational exposure.
In Carpenter D, Ayrapetyan S (eds) Biological effects of electric and
magnetic fields. Sydney: Academic Press.
21. Savitz D and Calle E (1987) Leukaemia and
occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields: review of epidemiologic
surveys. J Occup Med 29:47-51.
22. Theriault, GP. Health effects of
electromagnetic radiation on workers: epidemiologic studies. Bierbaum, PJ
and Peters, JM. 91-124. 1991. Cincinnati, OH, US Department of Health and
Human Services. Proceedings of the Scientific Workshop on the health
Effects of Electric and Magnetic Fields on Workers. Ref Type: Conference
23. Tornqvist S et al (1991) Incidence of
leukaemia and brain tumours in some "electrical occupations". Br.J
24. Verschaeve L and Maes A (1998) Genetic,
carcinogenic and teratogenic effects of radiofrequency fields. Mutat
25. Wertheimer N and Leeper E (1979) Electrical
wiring configurations and childhood cancer. Am J Epidemiol.