Radiation literature survey
The radiation literature survey provides updates on published literature related to radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) and health.
Published literature includes articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific-body reports, conference proceedings, etc.
The updates on new radiation literature that are of high quality and of public interest will be published as they arise. For each update, a short summary and a link to the abstract or to the full document (if freely available) are provided. The update may also include a commentary from ARPANSA and links to external websites for further information. The links may be considered useful at the time of preparation of the update however ARPANSA has no control over the content or currency of information on external links. Please see the ARPANSA website disclaimer.
Explanations of the more common terms used in the updates are found in the glossary.
The radiation literature that is listed in the updates is found by searching various databases and is not exhaustive.
The intention of the radiation literature survey is to provide an update on new literature related to radiation and health that may be of interest to the general public. ARPANSA does not take responsibility for any of the content in the scientific literature and is not able to provide copies of the papers that are listed.
Visit the National Library of Australia Australian Government Web Archive to access archived information no longer available on our website.
European study finds exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields is well below the safety limits in international guidelines
Huss et al
This study conducted measurements of radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME) in different every day settings (e.g. parks, residences, shopping centres etc.) across 5 European countries (Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland and Netherlands). The measurements were conducted using a newly developed body-worn meter. The median RF-EME exposure across 267 locations using the new body-worn meter was 0.13 mW/m2 which was similar to the median measurements using other types of meters.
The measured RF-EMF levels across all environments in all countries were well below the public exposure limits set in the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection’s 2020 radiofrequency exposure guidelines, and the ARPANSA radiofrequency exposure standard (RPS S-1). Although these results were expected, it is still a reassuring result that exposure in environments similar to what we would expect in Australia was well below the ARPANSA safety standard. There is currently no substantiated scientific evidence that exposure to RF-EME at levels below the limits set in the ARPANSA Standard cause any adverse health effects.
Further evidence that using mobile phones does not increase the incidence of brain cancer
Villeneuve et al.
Environmental Research, 2021
This Canadian study used data from the Canadian Cancer Registry to compare the recorded incidence rates of glioma and the prevalence of mobile phone use (measured by the annual number of mobile phone subscriptions) between 1992 and 2015. The glioma incidence trends were also compared to the risk estimates in three other studies reporting an association between mobile phone use and glioma; a recent pooled analysis of Swedish case-control studies, the INTERPHONE study, and an analysis of the data collected from the Canadian component of the INTERPHONE study. The authors reported that when comparing the actual number of cases of glioma diagnosed in Canada in 2015 to the risk estimates, these studies overestimated the observed number of gliomas diagnosed by 50%, 86%, and 63%, respectively. Further, the authors also reported that despite the enormous growth in the ownership and use of mobile phones from the early 1980s up to 2015, the observed cases of glioma remained stable over the study period, indicating that there is unlikely to be a causal link between mobile phone use and glioma.
The results of this study are consistent with a similar study conducted by ARPANSA (Karipidis et al) that reported stable incidence rates of glioma and other types of brain cancer in Australia over the period from 1982 to 2013 despite the increased prevalence of mobile phone use during this time. Both studies used mobile phone subscription data to estimate mobile phone use in the population and this may not be a true indicator of actual mobile phone use. Nevertheless, it is inherently clear that the use of mobile phones in society has increased rapidly during the timeframe accounted for in these studies. This, combined with the stability in brain cancer trends, indicates that case-control studies reporting associations with mobile phone use and brain cancer may be affected by biases in exposure assessment, especially where mobile phone use data is self-reported.
This study adds further evidence that there are no substantiated adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy from mobile phones and other wireless devices where the emissions are below the public exposure limits set in the ARPANSA Standard and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection’s radiofrequency guidelines.
Wi-fi in Mexico – exposure and risk perception
Ramirez-Vazquez et al.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
In this study, exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) from Wi-fi was measured by meters carried on the body of 63 volunteers in Mexico over a 24-hour period. The measurements were taken as participants conducted their normal daily routines in a range of environments including homes, workplaces and other public access and urban environments. Volunteers were instructed to avoid using mobile phones, laptops or any other devices connected to Wi-fi during the measurements. When this was unavoidable, participants recorded these activities in a diary outlining the timing and duration of such events to assist in the data analysis. The exposures ranged from a minimum power density of 116.8 microwatts per square meter (µW/m2) to 499.7 µW/m2. Lower levels were measured at night and higher levels during the day. Further, higher measurements were normally associated with office environments. In addition, the authors conducted a follow up survey about health risk perception from exposure to Wi-fi on 35 of the volunteers before and after the measurements were made. The authors reported that the perception of risk generally decreased after participants were made aware of the exposure levels.
This study generated some useful data about personal exposure to RF EME from common wireless devices such as Wi-fi routers. The accuracy of some of the results may have been affected by relying on the participants to keep accurate records of their use of mobile phones and other devices while carrying the meters. However, the results were in line with other studies conducted with stricter measurement protocols such as the Wi-fi in schools measurement study conducted by ARPANSA. The measured levels in both studies were well below the public exposure limits set in the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection’s 2020 radiofrequency exposure guidelines and the ARPANSA radiofrequency exposure standard. In Australia, RF EME emissions from all wireless devices such as mobile phones, tablets and Wi-fi routers are required to comply with the public exposure limits set in the ARPANSA standard, where compliance is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Oddly, the authors express their results using a non-standard unit which they have named “wave intensity” and, although they clearly state that this is synonymous with the accepted term “power density”, this may lead to unnecessary confusion when comparing results to other studies. Further, they do not offer a sound scientific explanation for choosing to use this alternate terminology. The survey that demonstrated that most of the volunteers were more assured of the safety of exposure from these devices after they were provided with measurement results is an interesting observation that may be used to study risk perception of RF EME. Although it does seem to detract from the main purpose of this particular study which was environmental measurement of RF EME and comparison to international guidelines.
Study reanalyses the data from children of atomic bomb survivors and adverse pregnancy outcomes
Yamada et al
The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) conducted a study on the pregnancy outcomes of children of atomic bomb survivors from 1948 to 1954. This original study and subsequent other reports in 1956, 1981 and 1990 did not find significant associations of ionising radiation exposure with adverse pregnancy outcomes such as neonatal deaths, still births or congenital malformations. However, none of these previous studies included approximately 1200 induced terminations and had other outcome misclassification errors. This new analysis reconstructed and refined the data from the original ABCC study and used more advanced methods for assessing radiation doses received by the subjects and subsequent dose-response relationships. This reanalysis found that radiation is associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. For fathers exposed to 0.5 – 1 Gy there was an increased risk for major malformations whilst for mothers exposed to 0.5 – 1 Gy there was an increased risk for perinatal death outcomes. However, most of the results were not statistically significant and the generalizability is uncertain due to the extreme circumstances encountered by atomic bomb survivors.
Comments by ARPANSA:
In Australia, the system for Radiation Protection draws on international best practice, particularly, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). The ICRP (ICRP, 2007) prudently recommends including the risk of heritable effects within the system of radiation protection and provides risk estimates for its application. This is further underpinned by the work of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR, 2001).
The findings within this study are consistent with ICRP’s approach. This study reported that ionising radiation is associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, despite most of the results not finding a statistically significant association. It is likely that the lack of statistically significant associations found in both parental categories for exposure over 1 Gy is due to the small sample size for those categories. In contrast, another recent study conducted on clean-up workers from the Chernobyl nuclear accident found no evidence of heritable effects. However, the majority of participants were exposed to less than 0.5 Gy, which is below the level that the Yamada et al. study found a statistically significant association. Despite the lack of statistically significant associations found in the Yamada et al. study, the consistent increase in risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes found across the exposure groups may be useful for risk assessment purposes. This study as well as experimental observations credibly reason that the risk of heritable diseases should be included in radiation risk assessments and considered when setting exposure limits.
Study finds that making pocket calls won’t stop you having children
Hatch et al.
PubMed, Jan 2021
This study examined the relationship between men who carried a mobile phone in their pocket and fecundability in two prospective preconception cohort studies. The study included 751 men in Denmark and 2349 men in North America whose phone habits and conception outcomes were followed from 2012 to 2020. Mobile phone exposure was assessed by survey and included information about the number of hours the phone was on and carried in the pocket and the pocket location (e.g. back, front, shirt pocket, etc.). The authors also conducted a substudy on some of the subjects of both cohorts investigating selected indicators of semen quality. Overall, it was reported that there was little association between carrying a mobile phone in any pocket location and conception outcomes. These results were consistent in both cohorts and also when the results were pooled across both study groups. Further, there was little consistency on effects to semen quality parameters and mobile phone exposure.
This study explored a reported decline in male fertility, as reported in a previous analysis of 195 studies, between 1973 and 2011 (Levine et al., 2017). Some studies, including two meta-analyses (Adams et al., 2014; Liu et al., 2014), reported that radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) from mobile phones may be associated with lower sperm motility, however, other recent studies did not report an association (Zhang et al., 2016; Lewis et al., 2017). Despite some limitations in this study by Hatch et al, including the assessment of exposure to RF EME by self-reported mobile phone habits which may have resulted in misclassification, the results are in line with other studies that did not report an association. Furthermore, the decline in male fertility trend started well before the introduction of mobile phones, suggesting a different causal factor.
This study has added to the growing body of scientific and health evidence for exposure to RF EME. There remains no substantiated scientific evidence that the use of mobile phones causes any health effects. This includes exposure to RF EME and fertility, which has been assessed in major reviews, including by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR 2015).
Slip, Slap, Seek and Slide but what about Slop? A two decade look at sunscreen in skin cancer prevention
Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences
This extensive article reviews much of the experimental and epidemiological evidence around the use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer over the last two decades. The author discusses many aspects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure and mechanisms of skin damage and sunscreen properties in detail including:
- mechanisms of UVR interaction with human skin and the pathways for which DNA damage occurs and skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma develop,
- specific properties of different categories of sunscreen as defined by their active ingredients (e.g. physical barriers such as zinc oxide and chemical absorbers such as oxybenzone) and how they work to block solar UVR from damaging skin,
- the spectral range of UVR that sunscreens are effective and the length of time before re-application is necessary.
The author also discusses potential direct adverse health effects from use of the sunscreens by reviewing results on risks of penetration of active ingredients into the bloodstream. Further, comment is provided about environmental and aquatic ecosystem risk concerns from pollution caused when sunscreen ingredients wash off during outdoor recreational activities, resulting in decisions to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone by various jurisdictions in the US.
The author then moves on to discuss the level of evidence supporting skin cancer risks from solar UVR exposure and the net effect that sunscreen has had on reducing those risks. The author concludes that the protective effects of sunscreen use, although supported in many studies, are yet to be clearly demonstrated due to conflicting conclusions within the total body of scientific and health evidence. Further, more work is required to assess sustained efficacy to block UVR based on the photostability of the active ingredients in sunscreens and any potential direct health impacts on humans and the environment.
This article presents extensive information on solar UVR health effects, types of sunscreens and how they work in blocking UVR. Contextual review of scientific and health research related to the use of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer is also provided. Although the author asserts that there is no clear evidence that sunscreen use has had a definitive effect on reducing the incidence of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, a number of studies have reported a protective effect with sunscreen use. For example, in 2011 Green et al reported that a follow up from a randomised trial conducted on a cohort of residents in Queensland demonstrated a reduced melanoma rate in participants that applied sunscreen on a daily basis. Another Australian study published in 2018 by Watts et al reported that application of sunscreen in early childhood significantly reduced melanoma in adults.
The discussion given on the effectiveness of particular sunscreens along with potential health effects and environmental damage highlights the importance of clinical trials and other hazard assessments. However, the article demonstrated that there are many types of sunscreen on the market giving regulators and consumers options and alternatives for managing any negative health or environmental impacts. Further, discussions on the other sun protection strategies including wearing hats, protective clothing, sunglasses and seeking shade highlight that sunscreen should not be relied upon as a single strategy for skin cancer prevention. As many studies have reported a decrease in skin cancer risk through sunscreen use, ARPANSA and Cancer Council Australia still advise its application as part of the five sun protection measures, Slip Slop Slap Seek and Slide.
Study does not find a link between living near Mobile Phone Base Stations and Self-Reported Health Disturbances
Martin, S et al
This cross-sectional study investigated the possible association between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from mobile base stations and self-reported non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms. A total of 354 participants were recruited from 5 cities in France that lived within 250 metres of a base station that had been operational for over 2 years. The participants had RF-EMF measurements completed at their homes following the completion of a questionnaire via the telephone which collected data on environmental concerns, anxiety and non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms. The study found no association between measured RF-EMF from base stations with self-reported non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms. However, a significant interaction was found for insomnia-like symptoms between RF-EMF exposure from base stations and environmental concerns. Overall, the authors concluded that this study shows no adverse effect from residential RF-EMF exposure from base stations on non-specific and insomnia-like symptoms.
This study further contributed to the growing body of evidence that RF-EMF exposure from mobile base stations does not cause adverse health effects. This is in line with ARPANSA’s view that there is currently no substantiated scientific evidence that exposure to RF-EMF from telecommunications infrastructure at levels below the limits set in the ARPANSA Standard (RPS 3) cause any adverse health effects. Some people have reported experiencing a range of non-specific symptoms that they attribute to exposure from EMF. This is sometimes referred to as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS). However, there is no established evidence the EMF at levels below the exposure guidelines causes EHS. More information on EHS can be found on our factsheet.
Study finds Norwegian offshore petroleum workers at greater risk of skin cancer
Liu et al
American journal of industrial medicine
This cohort study compared the incidence of skin cancer (melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, SCC) in Norwegian offshore petroleum workers to a range of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure activities. The cohort, which included 27,917 men and women, was established in 1998 and followed till 2017 to ascertain the incidence of skin cancer. UVR exposure was estimated via a self-reported questionnaire that obtained information on sunbathing and indoor tanning habits, frequency of sunburns and on residential and occupational solar UVR exposure. The questionnaire also gathered data on sunscreen use. The authors reported that melanoma risk increased with higher sunbathing frequency after the age of 20, intensity of sunburn and, surprisingly, higher sunscreen use. SCC risk increased with indoor tanning frequency after the age of 20, sunburn intensity and, again, higher sunscreen use. Based on the results the authors concluded that this occupational group could benefit from targeted sun protection advice.
Comments by ARPANSA
Most of the results of this study were not statistically significant which may have been due to the limited skin cancer case numbers overall and consequently in each exposure category. Regardless, the findings are generally supported by the results of other similar studies from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom (Schnatter et al. 1992, Gun et al. 2006, Stenehjem et al. 2014). The strengths of this study include high quality cancer data within the cohort and the inclusion of a comprehensive set of UVR exposure variables to conduct exposure specific analysis of skin cancer risk. However, despite questionnaires being completed before disease diagnoses, the authors could not rule out the potential for confounding through self-reported lifestyle habits. In addition, crude categories of UVR exposure may have led to differential misclassification (which could have under- or over-estimated the resulting risk estimates). The authors argue that the increased risk of skin cancer found among higher users of sunscreen could indicate a “desire to tan” or a higher exposure to solar UVR through more frequent outdoor activity. Further, this finding may also serve to reiterate that application of sunscreen is only part of the sun protection measures advised by ARPANSA and other health authorities, and cannot be relied on alone to prevent skin cancer.
Overall, the results of this study support the advice from both ARPANSA and Cancer Council Australia about limiting UV exposure and applying sun protection measures. Despite some of the limitations described by the authors, this study added to the body of evidence that UVR exposure is a causal factor in the development of SCC and melanoma.
Study reports that exposure to solar UVR reduces breast cancer risk
Yilun Li, Li Ma
PubMed, Nov 2020
This was a meta-analysis of 6 case-control studies that examined the relationship between solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure and breast cancer. Three of these case-control studies were also used to assess a possible dose-response relationship between solar UVR exposure and breast cancer. The study reported a statistically significant reduced risk of breast cancer with UVR exposure (relative risk, RR: 0.7, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.65, 0.75). The study also reported a statically significant decrease in breast cancer risk as UVR exposure increased in women aged 20 to 30 years (RR: 0.92; 95% CI: 0.90, 0.95). In women over 40, the authors reported a linear dose-response relationship that for every 1000 mW/m2 hours of sunlight there is a 10% reduction in breast cancer risk. Overall, the authors report that solar UVR reduces the risk of breast cancer in women.
Despite the overall conclusion of the authors, when specific breast cancer subtypes were examined there was no reduced risk for estrogen receptor-negative and progesterone receptor-negative breast cancers (RR: 0.87, 95% CI: 0.67, 1.11). The study included relatively few studies (6), which limits any conclusions that can be made on the reported reduced risk of breast cancer with UVR exposure.
While this study suggests that solar UVR exposure may reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, UVR exposure remains one of the major risk factors for development of skin cancers. Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016). In 1992 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified solar UVR as a Group 1 carcinogen (IARC, 1992). ARPANSA recommends that all Australians limit their UVR radiation exposure, however, if you are in the sun, it is recommended that a combination of sun protection measures is used including clothing and sunglasses, shade and sunscreen. For more information see the ARPANSA factsheet, Sun exposure and health.
Study reports that mobile phone use does not cause tinnitus
Kacprzyk et al
National Library of Medicine, Jan 2021
This was a meta-analysis that examined the possible association between mobile phone use and tinnitus. The meta-analysis included eight studies that examined mobile phone use and tinnitus (two cohort, one case–control, and five cross‐sectional studies). The studies included self-reported cases of tinnitus. The authors grouped studies based on mobile phone exposure assessment (self-reported or network operator data) and study design. They reported no statistically significant increased risk of tinnitus for any of the grouped results. The authors concluded that overall their results do not support that mobile phone use is associated with tinnitus.
This study is in agreement with the conclusion of previous high quality reviews that have not supported a possible association between mobile phone use and tinnitus such as the ARPANSA Technical Report 164 and SCENIHR 2015. While studies such as Hutter et al (2010) have previously reported an association between tinnitus and mobile phone use, a review by the Independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation commented that these studies often had not controlled for environmental exposures, including direct exposure to sound in the auditory range.
There remains no substantiated scientific evidence that the use of mobile phones causes any health effects. However, for those that are concerned about their exposure, ARPANSA does provide advice on how to minimise your exposure in the Mobile phones and health factsheet.