An Australian study, published with the British Medical Journal Open, found no link between the use of mobile phones in Australia and incidence of brain cancers.

Mobile phones have transformed the telecommunications industry over the last few decades. They allow us to reach out to our friends and family, and connect to the internet from almost anywhere. Mobile phones are used daily by the majority of the Australian public, with recent consumer surveys conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority showing that more than 90% of Australians are using mobile phones.

Our study, conducted in conjunction with The University of Wollongong, Monash University and the University of Auckland, looked at the incidence of different types of brain tumours in adults including glioma, glioblastoma and meningioma diagnosed between 1982 and 2013. The brain cancer diagnoses of 16 825 cases was compared with the uptake of mobile phone subscriptions in Australia.

Main findings

The study found: 

  • the overall brain tumour rates remained stable throughout this period and showed no increase when compared with the increase of mobile phone use in Australia
  • there was an increase of glioblastoma during 1993 and 2002 which was attributed to better diagnostic techniques with advances made in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology
  • although mobile phone use has risen rapidly since 2003 there has been no increase in any brain tumour types since then
  • since 2003 there has also been no increase in brain tumours of the temporal lobe, which is the location most exposed when using a mobile phone.

A large number of studies have been performed to investigate whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. It is the assessment of ARPANSA and other national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), that there is no established evidence that the use of mobile phones causes any health effects. However, some previous studies that have compared the mobile phone use between brain cancer cases and healthy controls have shown a weak association between heavy mobile phone use and brain cancer. The current study further showed that if this association was true, then the brain tumour rates would be higher than those that are observed.

What you should do if you are still concerned

If you are concerned about using mobile phones there are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME).

  1. Place your phone on hands-free mode when making a call. Using your phone in hands-free mode increases the distance between the mobile phone and your head which reduces your exposure to RF EME.
  2. Send a text instead of making a call. When making a call your mobile phone is in constant communication with the base station which also exposes you to RF EME. If you send a text this exposure is shortened and reduced.
  3. Limit the duration of your calls. Limiting the duration of your calls will limit your exposure to RF EME.
  4. Make calls where reception is good. When making a call in an area of poor phone reception your mobile phone has to increase its RF EME output to communicate with the base station. When making a phone call in an area with good phone reception, your mobile phone does not need to use as much RF EME.

The study titled Mobile Phone use and incidence of brain tumour histological types, grading or anatomical location: A population-based ecological study has been published with the British Medical Journal Open.

Find out more about mobile phones and health on our website.

Access to information FOI disclosure log Information public scheme